Right to roam challenge dismissed

SCOTLAND'S ramblers were celebrating yesterday after a millionaire landowner lost his court bid to ban them from his 70-acre estate.

Euan Snowie, 39, the wealthy owner of a waste management company and laird of the Boquhan estate near Kippen, Stirlingshire, took the Ramblers' Association and Stirling Council to court in a challenge to Scotland's right to roam legislation.

He called for restrictions on access to land surrounding his home, Boquhan House, because he feared for his family's safety.

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But in a landmark judgment yesterday, Sheriff Andrew Cubie ruled that the evidence suggesting a security threat at the estate was "wholly unreliable" and that the section of land Mr Snowie wanted covered by the proposed ban was excessive.

Mr Snowie and his wife, Claire, had been seeking to exclude walkers, cyclists and horse riders from 40 acres of the estate.

But Sheriff Cubie ruled that a 15-acre area surrounding the house was sufficient to protect the family, and that access rights should be maintained on the driveways and wooded parts of the estate. A locked gate which prevented access along a route into the estate will also have to be opened up.

His judgment is in stark contrast to the decision in June last year by Sheriff Michael Fletcher granting Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag the right to prevent people entering parts of the land around her home at Kinfauns Castle in Perthshire.

The tycoon, worth around 395 million, was the first private landowner to seek exemption from right to roam laws.

Dennis Canavan, president of Ramblers Scotland, last night welcomed the ruling, claiming it sent a clear message to all owners of large estates that the public was allowed access in accordance with legislation.

He said: "We are delighted with Sheriff Cubie's decision, which reflects the intentions of the Scottish Parliament when the Land Reform Act was passed. This result sends a message to all landowners of big estates that people are entitled to walk on land provided they act responsibly in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

"The decision also sends a message to local authorities that access rights apply along driveways and past gatehouses. There are cases where signs have been erected and gates locked and we hope the authorities will now take action knowing the courts will back them up."

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Mr Canavan continued: "We do not think Mr Snowie should be concerned about this decision. We are confident that access can be made to work on his estate. Prior to the court case, the ramblers had useful discussions with Mr Snowie and we look forward to further meetings about how access can be managed."

Brian Devlin, the director of environment services at Stirling Council, also welcomed the judgment. He said: "We are pleased that the council's position has been vindicated in their efforts to ensure access legislation works as it was intended."

At a court hearing last year Mr Snowie told how his estate became "extremely spooky" at night when youths would come to drink in an old graveyard. He also spoke of "certain threats" against him and of "suspicious people" in the grounds.

In his judgment Sheriff Cubie stated: "Mr Snowie's evidence was characterised by a reluctance to accept that any access-taker could be genuine."

Gloag's privacy victory

IN JUNE last year the Ramblers' Association warned that Scotland's right-to-roam legislation had been dealt a significant blow after Anne Gloag, one of Scotland's richest women, won a landmark court case to ban public access to land around her Perthshire home. Mrs Gloag, the founder of Stagecoach and reputed to be worth an estimated 395 million, was the first private landowner in Scotland to secure such exemption for her home at Kinfauns House under the new access laws.

In his judgment, Sheriff Michael Fletcher said that the "nature of the building and its prominence" meant a larger section of surrounding land was required by Mrs Gloag to ensure her family's privacy and enjoyment of her home.

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