The Ramblers have criticised the proposed route of a heritage trail around a nature reserve.
Ramblers Scotland welcomed the decision to go ahead with an extension of the Loch Leven Heritage Trail near Kinross, but said the agreed route was not the best for walkers.
The walking charity’s director Dave Morris said the trail could be taken across a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland nature reserve without too much disturbance to wildlife.
Mr Morris said: “This is an important milestone in the completion of this project which will provide an outstanding recreational experience for anyone visiting Kinross and the surrounding area.”
But he said walkers using the route would be close to traffic on the B9097 road, which heads towards the M90 motorway.
He said: “The route as approved goes around the periphery of the RSPB reserve and is too long, too exposed to bad weather, too steep and too close to the B9097 for much of its length.
“The proposed Ramblers’ route would be much more direct and would cross the RSPB reserve, giving a much better experience for all users.
“If mitigation measures are put in place, we are not convinced that the levels of disturbance to wildlife would be as great as has been suggested by RSPB.”
The trail lies close to the Ramblers Scotland office at Milnathort.
In its submission to Perth & Kinross Council, Ramblers Scotland said: “We have been involved in lots of discussion and on site examination of these issues with staff of the RSPB and also in meetings with [Scottish Natural Heritage].
“These discussions have included members of our Scottish council executive committee who have considerable expertise in recreation and wildlife matters.
“We do not accept in their entirety the points made by RSPB and SNH as regards potential disturbance to wildlife or farming operations with the completion of this trail. In particular we do not accept that the levels of disturbance predicted in the area of the RSPB reserve will be as great as has been suggested.
“Experience of the existing trail and other locations indicates that the interests of wildlife and public enjoyment can be met more easily than has been suggested by RSPB and SNH.”
RSPB Scotland’s statement said: “The RSPB Loch Leven reserve is part of the Loch Leven national nature reserve whose objectives centre on both the maintenance and the public enjoyment of this important wetland and its birds.
“The management of the RSPB reserve for both birds and people is integral to these NNR objectives and is planned in close cooperation with Scottish Natural Heritage.
“The proposed route for the trail across the RSPB reserve is consistent with all of the above NNR objectives. It provides the best wide views of the wetland and its bird flocks, without disturbance, and most importantly it does not compromise the farming operation which maintains the wetland.”
The approved plans include the construction of a bridge on the trail, which would be open to both walkers and cyclists. The route has been promoted by Tracks, The Rural Access Committee of Kinross-shire and will complete a circular route around the loch.