Thursday, 17 April 2008


I'll reply here to Mike's post across on "Puppy's World" about the BBC "Natural World" program last night about Paul Lister's Alladale development. I've mentioned it a few times here in the past, so isn't new news (posts). I'll state here that I haven't watched the programme yet. I'm waiting for a more relaxing time, as I have heard/read interviews about this in the past and the stance taken by the developers winds me up.

But I wish people wouldn't keep using the Outdoor Access Code, and Land Reform Act as a hammer to knock developers. Would there be objections if the land was flat? Or there wasn't a Munro in the vicinity? But then we have Blair Drummond safari park, and zoos in Scotland already and no-one is suggesting that access laws are used to allow people to walk freely into the enclosures. Of course not. Are there any rights of way being removed? I haven't heard of any, but I could be wrong.

I have objections to the development, but other people have arguments in favour. There have been a number of high level planning 'debates' (totally the wrong word for these arguments) in Scotland recently. It would seem that no-one is happy with the planning laws. But they are the laws that we have, and people should not be allowed to sidestep them. That is what we have state authorities for - to make sure that people from the lowest to the highest in the land all obey the laws. I think I managed to keep a straight face writing that bit!

I'd love to go hiking amongst native woodlands rather than the bland industrially-minded plantations. Deer kept on the move by the threat of a wolf pack would probably benefit the native plants. Bears are different, and when one escaped in Scotland in the 1980's (or was it the 70's?), an intensive search was mounted to catch it. This is what we have licensing and official approvals for - to make sure that everything is up to standards before dangerous animals are released into such a large area (where this differs from smaller safari parks and zoos). I'm sure the insurance companies and backers also demand no less.

If, in future, there are hiking and camping tours through land clear of bears and nasties, I'd pay a fee for that privilege - to hear the wolves howl in the distance, and see the elk plod across the hillside. Just so long as there was no grizzly ripping my tent open and making off with half my face attached to its claws.

I'll second Mike's comment "Right i am off to get the flak jacket and tin helmet and find a big deep hole to hide in".

If you missed the programme and want to watch it, you'll find it in the BBC iPlayer - don't tell me what happens.


Chris Townsend said...

The programme was an insult to all the people who worked hard for years to gain legal rights of access to the hills and also an insult to all those people and organisations who are already working to restore and conserve the natural habitat. You can go walking among native woodlands now! I do regularly. And there are many places where regeneration is occurring such as Creag Meagaidh without need of fences and others, such as Glen Affric (which already has much natural woodland) where fencing is needed because adjacent landowners won't reduce deer and sheep numbers. However nowhere restricts access for regeneration purposes - there is no need.

I'm in favour of reintroducing wildlife, once the ecological conditions are right, but not at the expense of access.

European brown bears are very shy, due to centuries of persecution, and if introduced would probably hardly ever be seen. Moose/elk are much more dangerous!

AktoMan said...

Paul Lister owns the land. With that ownership comes rights, responsibilities and duties of care to visitors.

Right of Access is removed in certain circumstances. I guess this would be one of these if planning permission was given for this safari park (for that is what it is in all but name), as a fence is needed to secure the dangerous animals.

True, people have and are fighting hard for access to the outdoors, but I cannot imagine that many people would have envisaged people's access to a trek in the hills to come before properly planned developments and jobs.

Granted existing outdoor activities bring in money to the local economy, but probably not directly to the pocket of the owner of the land.

Access rights are transient and depend on land usage by the manager, rights of way are more difficult to remove, so maybe more need to be considered, eg to all Munros, Corbetts, Donalds, Marilyns, where to stop?

Any bear comes near me, I'm offski in the other direction, and not hanging around with a colourchart ;-)

As to moose/elk - aye, one of the folk at work was saying that. She'd been in Canada where the locals all had windchimes up to keep the moose (or was it elk) aways from their houses.

Exits humming the "Northern Exposure" theme.

Chris Townsend said...

If planning permission is given for this it will be fought all the way and I would guess Lister's fence would not last long. Landowners have always argued that development and jobs are reasons to refuse access. Access rights are not transient, they are the law of the land and just as hard to remove as rights of way. I am totally opposed to having designated rights of way to summits - funnel all the walkers into a neat line, keep them away organised and controlled - and would not follow them if they were created.

AktoMan said...

I hope he doesn't get planning permission for the full project, Chris, as I object to fencing off large parts of Scotland for the release of wild (or dangerous, in law) animals. It will be impossible to police over a large area and there will be an escape at some point. Either an animal or person will get hurt.

It may be that landowners wish to restrict all access to their land when only a small amount need be restricted, but in this case the plans are more extensive. Obviously.

For a lot of landowners, they must jump at the chance to gate bridges and otherwise restrict access to their land. If that was Mr Lister's plan, he's going oveboard about it.

As to the transience of access rights, all a farmer needs to do is work their land and people aren't allowed to cross ploughed land, or the other restrictions to access. If the rights were permanent (eg in the mapped CRoW manner in England & wales), then they would be more difficult to alter. Not that our system is better than the CRoW as I feel it is more flexible.

As to Rights or Way - well, it was just a suggestion, and I see the logic and agree with your comment.

Chris Townsend said...

Actually Duncan people are allowed to cross ploughed land. The Access Code says "access rights extend to such fields". Access rights also apply to fields with growing crops and fields with livestock.

AktoMan said...

Busted! That's what I get for working off the top of my head ;-(

Here we go then "access rights do not apply ... land in which crops are growing". If rights were fixed, then the land manager would find it more difficult to change than just by planting crops.

As some land usage changes, then so does the right to access that land. This safari park is just a very big example of that. With fences. And wild animals. And the requirement for many permissions and licences.

In the Land Reform Act 2003, Part 1, Para 2(3), under "Reciprocal obligations of owners", it states that "if it does not cause unreasonable interference with the access rights of any person exercising or seeking to exercise them".

If permission is given by the State for Mr Lister to release wolves, bear and other wild/dangerous animals on his land, is it not reasonable that they be fenced in?

If the State reckons it is reasonable to allow these wild/dangerous animals to be released to roam over a large area, then the Populace would require some protection from them.

If there's a petition for me to sign against the full development, then I'll sign it. But I must be missing some obvious part of the access laws that stop consentual development of land.

Chris Townsend said...

"if it does not cause unreasonable interference with the access rights of any person exercising or seeking to exercise them". This is the key. Refusing access to 23,000 acres of hill and glen would cause unreasonable interference, regardless of the reason for refusing the access.

The access code gives advice on how to avoid damaging crops when "exercising access rights in a field of crops". It does not say there is no right of access. On "nature reserves and other conservation areas", which could describe Alladale, the code says "access rights extend to these places".

Note that Lister has had to provide access to the wild boar enclosure under the access legislation.

I think the law would have to be changed for his fence to go ahead.

AktoMan said...

It comes down to the reasonable test again. Does what the land owner wants to do with his land seems reasonable?

If yes, then the fencing off of large parts of Scotland is reasonable for the completion of the scheme.

If not, then either smaller enclosures (as in 'standard' wildlife parks) or the restriction to non-wild animals.

That is why we have planning authorities.

I am surprised to hear that access is being provided under the legislation to the wild boar enclosure after one ran away with some of your foot footwear in Corsica (IIRC) ;-)

Was the boar enclosure access granted under a test of reasonableness?

I am surprised to read this, as access rights do not apply to "Places where you have to pay to go in" (SOAC, 2.11)

I think Mr Lister has to persuade the planning authorities that such a large fence is reasonably required, but I think the law seems to be flexible enough to cope with most circumstances.

Maybe access to certain outdoors locations needs to be protected in law? Eg summits and tops, waterfalls, lochans of historical, sites of special artistic interest, or just places that are nice to visit on days off.

Chris Townsend said...

I don't think it does come down to what is reasonable for the landowner. Access rights come first. Otherwise the access legislation would be meaningless and landowners would already have closed off land on the basis that it was reasonable for protecting crops, preventing disturbance to deer and more.

Access to the boar enclosure was insisted on under the access legislation on the basis that Lister had no right to prevent access to such a large area. The presence of wild boar was irrelevant to this. (The pig that stole my sandal was domestic!)

The access legislation did not give access rights to "places where you have to pay to go in" to protect places like the Highland Wildlife Park. However landowners cannot decide to charge for something and therefore restrict access.

I think the access legislation does protect access to the outdoors. Part 1 of the Land Reform Act gives everyone statutory access rights.

Lister can persuade the planning authorities that his fence is required. However he would still be required to provide access to the land inside the fence.

Robin said...

I'm definitely with Chris on this one. Give an inch and they'll take a mile. It was somewhat ironic that they discovered the "wild" boar was damaging the tree roots. It just shows how difficult it is to recreate an ecosystem.

AktoMan said...

I must be missing something that is blatantly obvious in the Scots statute books that access rights are that high on the agenda.

Wild boar enclosure - did the courts decide that access to land wasn't affected by the presence of 10 wild boar. What happens when people are charged entry if the plans go ahead with the sanction of the state?

I'll watch the programme tonight to see if these questions (and more) are answered. I've also the TGO article to catch up on.

The Land Reform Act states that..
It is the duty of every owner of land in respect of which access rights are exercisable—
(a) to use and manage the land; and
(b) otherwise to conduct the ownership of it,
in a way which, as respects those rights, is responsible.
Is banning access to large numbers of acres because of a relatively small number of wild animals reasonable or unreasonable? It sounds unreasonable to me. But each species would need to be weighed on it's merits. From what I have read, an expert doesn't think 50,000 acres is enough for the wolf pack. (link)

AktoMan said...

Robin - I disagree with this 50,000 acre safari park on various grounds, but I fail to see that the access laws of Scotland are one of them.

Would anyone give a boar's fart (wild or domestic) if the acreage was on former industrial land that no hiker went near? The same access laws apply, but I strongly doubt anyone would care.

Chris Townsend said...

"Is banning access to large numbers of acres because of a relatively small number of wild animals reasonable or unreasonable?"

Clearly unreasonable under the access legislation.

Access to the boar enclosure did not go to court - the local access officer said there must be access.

One person in the programme said 250,000 acres would be needed for wolves to roam wild. I've also heard an estimate that an area the size of Sutherland would be needed.

AktoMan said...

Watched the program and thought there was something odd, so went to the maker's site and yup, there's going to be a series of episodes (link)

Issues - if enclosed, it is no longer in the wild, so the Zoo legislations apply and prey and predators aren't allowed to be kept in same enclosure.

However, if classed as zoo, then access will be negated. Without a change in the law, there's no way the proposals can go ahead. Without the prey and predators being together, the project would fail to maintain the balance Mr Lister mentions as essential to the rewilding, where nature finds its balance.

A well-crafted programme with no recourse to local people beyond the landed gentry ("not Scottish, English"). Anyone against the plans are because Mr Lister is "a crackpot" or "nutcase" - which the one dissenting voice in the programme did not utter.

Sounds like a big headache for the local authority and I wouldn't be surprised if it goes down to the ScotGov in Edinburgh (like the Trump application and Aberdeen bypass).

Perhaps if he wasn't the "maverick" portrayed in the programme, then various bodies would be working towards finding a solution to the project.

But everything seems to be all or nothing these days. Lunch is for wimps and compromising is for losers. The fact that more people could enjoy the area seems to be irrelavent.

Anyway, I must go and stand on a hill with a helicopter taking photographs of me, whilst jangly faux-Celtic music is played by a nearby orchestra. Jings, cribbins and help ma boab.

AktoMan said...

Programme maker's summary is on their site (link). Includes some more stills and selected quotes.