Queen's friend facing legal action over Royal Deeside right to roam
THE Queen's neighbour at Balmoral has become embroiled in a row over public access to his sprawling country estate, The Scotsman can reveal.
John Gordon, the laird of Abergeldie, whose family have enjoyed a close relationship with the Royal Family for more than 150 years, could face enforcement action under land-reform legislation if he does not make changes to locked gates and stiles on his property.
The 70-year-old, who charges the Queen's Trustees an annual rent to use his grounds for hunting and fishing, has been the subject of numerous protests from members of the public in recent years, with ten complaints made in the past 36 months.
Now the Cairngorms National Park Authority (NPA), the body responsible for upholding access rights, has said it may be at the stage of serving Mr Gordon, the 21st Baron of Abergeldie, with a Section 14 notice under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, although it is still continuing with negotiations.
The NPA has been dealing with the issue of access to Mr Gordon's land for several years, with the first complaints made four years ago.
Since then, a host of other parties has come forward, and the NPA has tried "several tacks" to engage with the former Royal Marine, but claims all have been met with "very limited success".
The park authority has even used an NPA board member and friend of Mr Gordon to try to mediate, but the row is no nearer being resolved.
Minutes of meetings from the Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum, a working group of NPA members and its partners, reveal a catalogue of complaints made against Mr Gordon's estate near Ballater.
Among those who claim they have been prevented access are cyclists, walkers and dog owners. Two complaints have also been made from organisers of Duke of Edinburgh's Award groups.
Mr Gordon has told the forum he has serious concerns surrounding deer management. He says that, should his estate have gates that could be left open, he fears the animals might escape on to farmland and forestry.
He has also cited an incident in which a group of people started a fire on his property.
The NPA has said that, while it is "potentially at the stage of serving a Section 14 notice on the landowner to remove the obstructions", it is "not minded" to take formal action at this stage, preferring instead to negotiate further with Mr Gordon.
Ian McCall, the campaign and policy co-ordinator at Ramblers Scotland, said: "
The park authority has a duty to provide public access, and if it did service a Section 14 notice, we would be supportive."
The laird leases part of his 11,700-acre estate to the Queen's Trustees, continuing a tradition that began in the 19th century, when his forebears allowed Prince Albert to use the land for hunting and fishing for a peppercorn rent.
Bob Grant, the NPA's senior outdoors access officer, said: "There have been issues in the past relating to the estate."
Mr Gordon could not be reached for comment yesterday.
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