Speak out on path plan (Dumfries and Galloway)

I REFER to your article, ‘Have a say as paths plan is created for the
region’, (E&L, February 26) and to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s glossy
leaflet Core Paths.

Considering Langholm’s history of common lands being eroded and lost to
landowners, any public consultation under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act
2003 – the legislation is supposed to recognise our “right to roam” – should
be of great interest to people.

However, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Langholm community council have
mishandled this consultation by inhibiting the public’s participation.

Hardly anybody is aware that draft core path plans for Langholm and Eskdale
are currently held in the library up until March 23 where they are supposed
to be prominently displayed for the public to make comments and provide
input to the plans.

In fact, the plans are concealed in a cupboard and you will get to see them
only if you ask the librarian to let you see them.

Even then, because the plans are large and there is no display board or
suitable table, it requires some effort to read them, especially since the
related explanatory notes are stuck on the door of the cupboard at floor
level, so you have to kneel or lie on the floor to read these.

This is a minor complaint compared with the main point at stake but is
symptomatic of the carelessness of the “access team” and community
councillors who are supposed to organise the consultation, not the fault of
the librarians.

For example, when drop-in sessions for the public were organised, these were
held only in the libraries of Annan and Lockerbie.

Presumably, Langholm and Eskdale people were expected to go to the trouble
and expense of travelling 20 or more miles into Annandale to “have a say” on
the paths planned for our own immediate locality.

The main point is that most of our long-established traditional “walks” and
access routes in and around Langholm have not been included on these core
paths plans.

For example, Easton’s, Gaskells and most of the Duchess’s walks have been
left out. The walking, cycling and riding route through the Langfauld to the
Potholm, Staplegordon and beyond are all omitted.

Many other paths and routes used for generations of Langholm people are not
being recorded on these plans.

Surprisingly, hardly any of the seven “walks” illustrated in the council’s
brochure, Walking in and around Langholm, nor the walks featured in the
Langholm walking festival are included.

Only one or two obvious paths/routes are marked on the plan, for example,
the direct route from the Mercat Place up Whita to the Monument, but other
paths commonly used on Whita Hill are ignored, like the route taken by the
Cornet and followers to the Castle Craigs.

Other paths and routes which ought to be marked as core paths are not shown,
like the walk through the Lamb Hill, Whuchulls and Target Burn.

Some paths/tracks/loanings are incompletely, even ludicrously, indicated by
showing only short sections of what we know are much longer, more
comprehensive paths or route networks.

Hardly any of the paths that should be treated as core paths have been
indicated in Westerkirk, Ewes or Eskdalemuir.

Around Canonbie quite a few paths are marked and this might be because
Canonbie’s community council took the consultation more seriously in 2006
when they adopted responsibility for publicising and organising the
consultation, holding their own day-long drop-in event, attracting the
public to provide input to the plans.

To quote from the council’s latest leaflet, core paths are supposed to be
“the paths most important to residents and visitors and can be anything from
a path in a village or a path to connect residents with schools or local
facilities. Core paths could also be scenic routes in the countryside which
enhance people’s health and wellbeing”.

What we see on these plans is evidently not being achieved. People should go
and have a look and take action while they still have a chance because many
will have their own suggestions as to what walks, routes, paths should be
recorded on plans and safeguarded for the future.

This is all the more important considering that some of the paths mentioned
like Easton’s and Gaskells are already under serious threat.

Bill Telfer

What’s happening in your area- let us know

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