The hills above Drumlean Estate near Aberfoyle. Photo: Richard Webb CC-BY-SA-2.0

The hills above Drumlean Estate near Aberfoyle. Photo: Richard Webb CC-BY-SA-2.0

Judges in Scotland’s highest civil court have upheld a ruling in favour of the public’s right of access to a Highland estate.

The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority won an appeal last year against a judgement that backed the owners of the Drumlean Estate overlooking Loch Ard.

The authority successfully argued that locked gates at the site prevented members of the public exercising their ‘right to roam’ under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

But the Liechtenstein-registered company that owns the land challenged the ruling at the Inner House of the Court of Session. The Lord President of the court Lord Carloway, sitting with two other judges, found in favour of the national park on Tuesday.

The court ruled that at least one gate must be unlocked to allow walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts access to the estate, on the hills to the North of Loch Ard between Milton and Kinlochard. Lord Carloway said the gates were locked to prevent or deter access to the land by the public, which they had the right to be on or to cross.

The national park authority said: “Following complaints from members of the public that access to an area between Ben Venue and Loch Ard was being blocked by locked high gates, and after repeated attempts to resolve the issue with the owners directly, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority issued an enforcement notice to the landowners to remove a number of physical barriers to the public’s right of access on their land in 2013.

“The initial judgement in late 2015 found against the park authority and held that there had not been a breach of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and that access rights did not apply to certain parts of the estate.

“The authority immediately lodged an appeal against that decision which, if it had been allowed to stand, would have undermined the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2013 and set an unhelpful legal precedent for access rights in Scotland.

“That appeal was upheld in March 2017 but a further appeal to the Court of Session was lodged by the landowner which has been rejected in the judgement issued today.”

Gordon Watson: 'f positive result'. Photo: Nick McGowan-Lowe

Gordon Watson: 'positive result'. Photo: Nick McGowan-Lowe

Gordon Watson, national park chief executive, said: “Today’s decision sets a national precedent and we are pleased that this positive result will be able to be drawn upon by other access authorities across the country in the future.

“There has been a significant amount of work over the last five years involved in pursuing this case but it was crucial to do so and ensure that the public can continue to enjoy their access rights within this special landscape in the national park.

“I am delighted that the expertise, dedication and determination of our access and legal teams has resulted in public access rights being confirmed at the Drumlean Estate following today’s decision.

“The national park authority strongly believes in its duty to uphold the landmark right to responsible access granted to the public by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

“In our role as an access authority we work in partnership with communities and land managers across the National Park to ensure public access rights are protected and upheld.

“The vast majority of landowners within the national park, from small land holdings to large estates, respect the provisions and responsibilities that come with the Land Reform Act and support our many projects to improve access.”

The case was brought by Vaduz-based company Renyana Stahl Anstalt. German-born engineer Reiner Brach, 78, is listed as director of Drumlean Farms Limited, which was formerly known as Drumlean Estate Limited. The company has been dormant since 2014.

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