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Sutherland Local Access Forum Setting a Pace

10th October 2006

Photograph of Sutherland Local Access Forum Setting a Pace

A Local Access Forum in Sutherland is bringing together all parties with an interest in developing and managing access to the outdoors. It is an independent advisory body working to promote dialogue and understanding, developing a consensus and promoting a co-operative approach to access to the countryside and inland waters.

The 14-strong Forum brings together the views and interests of users, land managers, community groups and public agencies to advise The Highland Council on meeting its statutory duties under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This forum is one of six newly created by the Council and has been meeting regularly for the past 10 months and
getting to grips with their new role. The forum will particularly provide guidance to assist the Council in resolving access issues and problems such as locked gates, dogs and livestock etc.

Chair of the forum Greer Johnston explained: "Legislation gives The Highland Council a number of new duties and powers and the Local Access Forum is here to assist the authority by advising on matters from signage, to fences, to developing plans for access provision. One of the main benefits of this work is to allow the public to use paths and
take other form of access with confidence."

Matt Dent, the Access Officer for Sutherland said "The Highlands of Scotland have a long history of outdoor recreation and the Land Reform Act builds on this tradition of welcoming visitors. A code of conduct (the Scottish Outdoor Access Code) has been produced along side the act to guide the public and land owners about responsible access and management.

"With so many activities covered by the legislation there is likely to be something in the code new to most people. Be it cyclists giving way ,to walkers on narrow paths or canoeing carefully past anglers, the range of pursuits undertaken in the countryside means responsible access is vital. And of course the older problems, such as dog fouling, should not be forgotten."

As well as helping to promote the Scottish Outdoor Access Code the forum is being actively consulted on the development of a core path plan for the county. The vision is that core paths will be the basic framework of paths giving access to open land, hills, woodland, inland water, and to wider path networks such as forest trails. Comments and suggestions are very welcome. Please contact Matt Dent on 01549 42729 for further

Details of the Local Access Forum membership, agendas and minutes (and other countryside information) can be viewed on The Highland Council web-site at:

Photo shows some members of the Sutherland Local Access Forum on a site visit to Skerray.