The North Lanarkshire Council Core Path plan (CPP) has been returned from the reporter at Holyrood and is now a step nearer implementation.
The CPP was intended to be a directory of paths in Scotland, collated by each local authority, which would allow people to see at a glance where paths existed in their area. This would hopefully encourage people to use the network, while giving the paths an extra layer of protection which they currently do not have.
To my mind it hasn’t worked as well as it should have. I attended some of the consultation meetings where members of the public were asked to mark paths on maps and submit information about them. In a number of cases these were removed from the proposed plan, for various reasons.
Confusion arose about who was to access the paths. The Scottish Government website states that:
“Core paths must cater for everyone, including those with disabilities. In drawing up their core paths plans access authorities must have special regard to all those people with disabilities who seek to exercise their access rights.”
Some proposed core paths were removed from the plan as they didn’t meet the needs of the disabled, while others were retained despite having to cross obstacles such as fences. Some existing rights of way were deleted from the proposed plan, wrongly in my view, for various reasons. One was removed because it ended on a busy road. Another was removed because when it was proposed it was included as part of a longer route, and issues with other spots further along the route meant the deletion of the route as a whole. As the date had closed for submissions, the shorter off road section could not then be resubmitted, even though it had been part of a correctly proposed route. Madness!
Some local authorities have included paths which could only be accessed by able bodied fit walkers (such as the West Highland Way or the Lairig Ghru) as well as those paths which could be accessed by all. I would see that key to this strategy would be a grading system, allowing people to judge at a glance whether a path wwas within their range of abilities or not . At present I am unaware of any grading system in place, whether this is adopted once the plan is place remains to be seen.
With the proposal accepted and nearing adoption it’s a step closer to protecting access along defined paths. Already however, land managers who are well aware of the proposals have been erecting gates and fences across some of these paths. Whether the local authorities are prepared to bare their legal teeth to protect them will be a sign of their commitment to the whole projects long term success.