An EXTENSION of a popular Highland walk has been given the green light after Scotland’s first Path Order was granted.
Right-to-roam laws were used to force the owner of the 1,100-acre Kinrara Estate to allow the £1 million Speyside Way project to cross his land.
The extension of the route had been 15 years in the planning before the dispute between the estate, near Aviemore, and Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA) was finally settled.
It is the first time the landmark legislation has been used to force a landowner to allow a path to be built in a particular location on his land.
The existing 52-mile route, popular with walkers for its spectacular scenery, stretches from Spey Bay to Aviemore.
But it had been a goal by CNPA to extend the route to Newtonmore – which meant crossing the Kinrara Estate, owned by millionaire businessman Torr McLaren, who also owns Clouds Estate in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Environment minister Stewart Stevenson has confirmed the first ever compulsory path order to force the estate to allow the extension.
Two rounds of public consultation in 2005 and 2007 over a variety of options resulted in a proposal by Scottish Natural Heritage that was approved in principle by Scottish ministers in May 2009.
CNPA, which has responsibility for the project in its area, agreed most of the route by co-operation with 11 other land managers. But Kinrara Estate had fundamental objections to the route, prompting the authority to use its formal powers. The estate objected and a reporter was appointed to hear the arguments.
David Green, convener of the national park authority, said: “The CNPA has long recognised the desire from communities along the length of the extension to have the Speyside Way carry on to Newtonmore, so this is fantastic news.
“We rely on a great deal of cooperation from land managers to help people enjoy the park. We only use our formal powers as a matter of last resort.
“This is the first time such powers have been used and confirmed by ministers in Scotland.”
David Thomson, convener of Ramblers Scotland, said: “Private kingdoms belong to the past. Public enjoyment of the outdoors must be at the heart of Scotland’s future and those who use unreasonable arguments about disturbance to wildlife, sport shooting or farming activities will receive no sympathy.
“The new paths are going in and landowners need to wake up to reality.”
Kinrara was designed in the 18th century by the Duchess of Gordon. It subsequently came into the ownership of former chorus-girl and later suffragette Lady Lucy Houston, who hosted society parties.
No-one from Clouds Estate was available for comment.