Moray estate ‘illegally’ blocking land access, says MSP

A local MSP has accused the owners of a Moray estate of acting like “18th century feudal barons” by “illegally” obstructing a popular walking route.

Loch Na Bo Estate, near Lhanbryde, has been urged to remove locked gates and a fence by Moray Council, the MSP and others. The Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society (ScotWays) and walking charity, Ramblers Scotland, said the estate had “ignored” its duty to ensure access rights.

In reply, the estate said some visitors had left litter and vandalised property but walkers had been “long welcomed” and it had “no desire to prevent access”. A meeting is due with Moray Council and “constructive suggestions” had been made by the estate to try and resolve issues, the spokesperson added.

Loch Na Bo is owned by the grandchildren and a business associate of the late Iain Mark Tennant, the former Lord-Lieutenant of Morayshire whose family has lived at nearby Innes Estate for generations.

This is the 21st century yet this is something that would be expected from 18th century feudal barons.

MSP Richard Lochhead

The Loch Na Bo access issues follow similar reports in Lochaber. The Ferret revealed on 30 May that the former leader of Highland Council, fellow residents and others accused an estate of breaching outdoor access legislation.

They said the estate had locked gates on walking routes, claimed to have been used for generations.

Those raising concerns over blocked access at Loch Na Bo include the Moray MSP, Richard Lochhead. He said he was disappointed the landowner decided to “erect barriers to prevent access”.

Lochhead told The Ferret: “This is the 21st century yet this is something that would be expected from 18th century feudal barons. After I took up the case on behalf of furious constituents, I am pleased that the Moray Council’s access manager has confirmed that the designated core path has been illegally blocked in two places and the barriers must be taken down given the contravention of the Land Reform Act.”

He added: “The fact that some landowners are prepared to do this just goes to show that the landmark legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament is extremely important. We need to encourage, not block access to Moray’s wonderful outdoors and remind everyone that in Scotland we have rights of access to our land that will be upheld and that we have a core path network in place.”

Moray Council’s access officer, Ian Douglas, visited the estate and confirmed locked gates and fences had been installed on a core path. “Blocking of a Core Path in this way contravenes the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 as it obstructs people from enjoying access rights along it”, Douglas told Lochhead in an email seen by The Ferret.

A map of obstructions on the core path compiled by Moray Council access officer, Ian Douglas

A spokesperson for Moray Council said it has a duty under the land reform act to ensure access rights are upheld. “We have contacted the land agent to advise the core path must be unblocked. A meeting has been scheduled to discuss the matter further, including representation from the Moray Outdoor Access Forum,” the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for Loch na Bo Estate said members of the public are welcome when “exercising their access responsibly”.

They added: “We installed and promoted the network of footpaths which Moray Council now promotes, with a high proportion of the trails having been designated as core paths. We have sadly experienced problems regarding a path that leads to our home and what we believe to be within the curtilage of Loch na Bo House, a family home.

“We have put forward constructive suggestions with a view to reaching a mutually satisfactory outcome. We would welcome those who have been quick to offer comment to come to the estate to see the situation first hand and understand the issues involved.”

A title deed for Loch Na Bo Estate shows the land has three proprietors, all trustees of the Oakwood Trust. The trio were given the land via a deed of trust by the late Iain Mark Tennant.

Tennant’s son, Mark, is a former Scottish Conservative party treasurer and election candidate. He ran the neighbouring 4,500 acre Innes Estate until 2017 before handing it over to his son. He is now chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners.

The Tennant family’s Innes Estate previously included Loch Na Ba, according to data from land reform campaigner and former MSP, Andy Wightman.

Loch Na Bo’s current proprietors are Iain Tennant’s granddaughter, Andrea Lisa Tennant-Hall, grandson, Henry Bruce Iain Ismay Cheape, and the late Nigel Douglas Pilkington who worked alongside the pair’s late father, Christopher.

The landowners have also been urged to remove the path’s obstructions by ScotWays and walking charity, Ramblers Scotland.

“A land manager has a duty to manage their land with regard to access rights and here, this appears to have been ignored”, said Richard Barron, ’ chief operating officer.

“There may well be a very good reason for this action, but the lack of any communication of what that reason may be is a huge mistake. It is particularly concerning that a core path has been closed off without the prior agreement of the local authority. The core path needs to reopen without delay.”

Ramblers Scotland said all core path plans “were drawn up and adopted in each part of Scotland after extensive consultation with landowners and members of the public.”

“These paths are often the most valued and well-used in each area,” said , director. “So it’s very frustrating to see a landowner deciding to block and divert a path without any authority to do so, affecting the rights of everyone who wants to walk, wheel, cycle or ride in the area.”

He added: “We hope that these obstructions can be removed as soon as possible.”

Header image thanks to Ian Douglas, Moray Council’s Access Officer.

This article was corrected at 15:11 on 11 June to clarify that Richard Lochhead was speaking in his capacity as the local MSP for Moray and not a Scottish Government minister.

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