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SNH Draft Outdoor Access Code Consultation:
Response by Andrew Mylius.
(Filed 06 Oct 03)
Andrew Mylius of St Fort Farm, Newport-on-Tay, Fife has kindly
sent Land-Care a copy of the response he submitted to SNH in relation
to the SNH consultation paper on their Draft Scottish Outdoor
Access Code for publication on the Land-Care website
Draft Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
St Fort Farm, Newport on Tay
Fife. DD6 8RE
Recreation & Access Group
Scottish Natural Heritage
Perth. PH1 3EW
1st June 2003
The draft code asks 4 questions on page 63. Does
the code provide -- ?
* an acceptable reference point on access rights
* a balanced outcome in terms of responsabilities on both land managers
or access takers.
* clear, sensible and helpful practical guidance on access rights
that you can use to make informed decisions about everyday situations
* Is the code written in a way which reflects the spirit of the
* It is clear that considering the legislation,
a code is required as a reference point
and SNH have delivered a draft code. I believe the code is essential
purpose of the Bill and at the same time safeguarding the legitimate
needs of land
managers, safeguarding wildlife and safeguarding the environment.
* I believe the code attempts to be balanced
but in fact fails on several points which I
will deal with later in this response.
* Again an attempt has been made in the draft
to provide guidance, but once more
some of the advice is not sensible, is not practical and needs further
* As I have not read in detail the exact wording
of the Bill I cannot comment on
whether the draft code reflects the spirit of the Bill.
My response is based on both my location and occupation,
as well as my 40 years
experience as a landmanager, farmer / forester.
St Fort Farm is situated in North East Fife close
to Newport on Tay. I am an owner-occupier and employ 3 full time
workers who live with their families on the farm, plus two part
St Fort farm has two closed pedigree herds of Suckler Cows (Aberdeen
Angus & Lincoln Red) a flock of 350 breeding Ewes and grows
a variety of cereals and various vegitables for both human and animal
consumption. A number of outdoor events are held here mostly for
equestrian competitions, but also cross country running and scout
camps etc. The Farm has invested in various facilities for equestrian
I have won two major awards for amenity, forestry and conservation
in the last 15 years. I am a member of Fife Council's Access Forum.
Question two -on balanced rights and responsibilities.
The current draft must be ammended because the
overarching thrust of the Access Codes text (in detail) will make
the following activities more difficult or even impossible to achieve.
Much of the current draft will also adversely effect the economic
viability with regard to the following headings.
* Sustainable livestock farming, especially
near urban settlements.
* The maintainance and preservation of wildlife habitats.
* Improvement of biodiversity.
* Compliance by farmers with existing IACS and other stewardships
* Biosecurity on farms. Human and Animal health
* Safety and privacy for farm dwellers and their families.
Why are these six headings so important ? and
Can these six topics be addressed in ways which allows them to be
successfully covered so that the access Bill can deliver its purpose
whilst at the same time delivering access to everyone in a sensible
The third question SNH ask is about sensible
guidance, ---- is it clear, helpful and practical ? So the key to
the Access Code being both workable and acceptable is the word "sensible".
Practical advice is usually balanced advice and
some parts of the code fall short on these points. Practical
advice is also usually acceptable to most people, including access
providers and access takers.
Why are the six principles (above) so important.
I could write at great length on these six headings, but SNH are
aware of the importance of farming and livestock production to the
Scottish economy, they are aware of the importance of Wildlife habitat,
and they are aware that current IACS schemes and rules must be brought
into line with legislation on access through the code. SNH is also
aware of the current concern with animal biosecurity and the risks
to human health and safety.
SNH should also be aware that farms and farm dwellings
pose different questions on safety and privacy because of their
locations. What may be sensible advice on a remote hillside visited
by long distance walkers, will require different advice on a lowland
livestock/arable farm near to an urban settlement where the visitors
are mostly dog walkers.
In short the code can be ammended to deliver
satisfactory solutions to the six key points, by offering practical
and sensible ways to guide the public when in the Countryside.
It is unfortunate that the Code makes no attempt
to offer different solutions to upland and lowland access. I am
sure that SNH is aware that most of the problems from a Landmanagers
point of view stem from lowland farmland, and especially farmland
near urban settelments.
My view is that SNH should even at this stage,
find slightly different solutions for these two main types of countryside.
SNH MUST make an effort to go down this route if the Access Code
is to be adhered to by both providers and takers.
Failing a will to attempt to go down this route,
it may be that Councils may be able to offer a way to forward. I
am aware that from my experience with Fife Councils Access Forum,
that they have an understanding of some of the problems that relate
to Fife's predominantly lowland farms.
From a farming perspective what are the key issues that require
ammendment, or attention in the final draft of the Access Code
* A definition of responsable behaviour that
safeguards Farmers and Growers
* The Code must not increase Landmanagers liability.
* The Code must seperate people from Farm Animals
and farm crops especially on
enclosed grassland; ( fenced fields and walls/hedges around fields
- at all times)
* The Code must exclude people from taking access
on (enclosed) field margins such
as headlands or endrigs or grass margins, unless specifically allocated
* The Code must reflect the stringent necessaty
for increased demands of bio-security
from the health & Safety executive, SEERAD and end users such
* The Code must be ammended to stop all access
both within the curtilage of and also
on/in the water itself on man-made ponds & resevoirs/lagoons
etc. As these are
often used for irrigation of crops for human or animal feed consumption:
as to safeguard the quality of water.
* The Code must be ammended to encourage the
divertion of all footpaths or riding
routes etc around farmyards, irrespective of whether they are rights
of way or not.
* The Code should make it irresponsable to be
taking nightime access on lowlands.
* The code should make it irreponsible to climb
stone walls/dykes and farm fences
at anytime. (Afterall farm staff do not climb their own walls or
fences because of
the weakening and destructive effect it has on these structures,
which are there as
part of our heritage and or to enclose livestock; and maintained
at the farmers
From a Wildlife and Habitat perspective; The Code needs
to be ammended so that:-
* The Principles set out in the code ì
show extra care for wildlife and historic placesî
(for example) need to be in line or agreement with other texts;
for example it says
page 22 that ìdisturbing wild birds and animals is a criminal
* The Code gives more effective protection
to wildlife habitats, especially on:
Enclosed farm land.
Small plantations/farmwoodlands and wind breaks.
Rough ground on lowland farms
Small (1.5 hectares or less) water features, such as resevoirs,
man-made ponds and private fisheries.
Especially when such areas have no protection from existing policies,
Land Management/farming/forestry and growing.
The Code is not helpful in a number of way to
The Code must be ammended so that :-
* It is easier for landmanagers to discuss exemptions/
re-routing and other aspects of
access directly with their local Council. The local Council should
in turn not have to
refer to Ministers, even for longer periods of exemption or even
* Landmanagers must be able to notify the public,
by putting up signs or by other
means of their activities/warnings/recommendations regarding specific
places, situations, events without being in any way in contravention
of any part of
* Landmanagers should be recommended to offer
alternative routes so as to avoid
farmyards, fields with livestock in them and special areas of conservation
land. (these may be habitats under a scheme or simply created at
expense/management) Usually the effect of people on foot or horse
and cycle is
detrimental to safe nesting and wildlife retention.
Landmanagement and multi use of paths/routes.
The code fails to offer solutions to the well
understood problems of multi use of paths.
The attempts to deal with this tricky problem are not sensible or
practical. SNH has accepted that universal multi use will present
many difficulties on many occassions as well as in many situations.
The difficulties are spread between access taker and access provider.
The overiding issue is whether a path or route
or corepath is capable of multi use,
and if not, how can this be assessed and can it be designated for
specific use by one or more types of activity.
The code must give recommendation to both Councils,
and Landmanagers to persue the concept of grading and the public
in turn would almost certainly be happy to concur with reasonable
At Fife Councils access forum we have discussed
the merits and negative aspects of multi use and it is more or less
agreed that some system of user identification is necessary. It
would be helpful if the Access Code gave support to this concept.
What types of track are suitable for multi-use.? At present it can
be summarised that a track which is wide enough, does not poach
or become waterlogged, and well maintained meets the criteria. Such
roads can be found on current public highways/minor roads/forestry
commission standard tracks and a few others.
It is clear from historical records that highways/drove
roads/ turnpikes etc were
laid down to exacting standards from about 1780 onwards, simply
so that they could take multi use traffic and stand up to the rigours
of the weather.
The number of such routes in Scotland are limited,
so it is obvious that an expansion of routes is required, if multi
use is to be promoted. Clearly this requires considerable funds.
What is also certain that if multi use is promoted without the infrastructure
in place then there will be problems for landmanagers and access
It is worth my time to write more on this as
it so important to get right. Take access for horse riders or even
carriage driven horses. As an event organiser of long-distance riding,
using farm tracks, field margins and roads, my experience tells
me that in the summer months, about 120 horses is the maximum that
most ground can take in a short time span, say 24 hours. That means
that the ground can recover, by grass harrowing or rolling without
reseeding or great expense. Once poached, due to over use, especially
in wet conditions or in the winter, the damage may be unrepairable
without major expense. From this very simple fact it is clear that
the current proposals are not really workable and that whilst the
Land Reform Bill may give horse riders a right of access, the responsable
and therefore the recommended view should be rather different.
The solution lies in Landmanagers liasing closely
with their Councils to extablish not only where a route may be drawn
up, but also when and what activity that route should cater for.
To achieve this sensible way foreward needs
the Code to promote the structured concept of multi use where appropriate
and seperate use where catered for.
It is not acceptable to me and I presume many
other farmers/foresters that their property may be subjected to
commercial activities. Activities that commercial operators will
benefit from and could use facilities or features that I have paid
for and maintained. I am not at all happy that someone who has not
contributed to the creation of these facilities may use them for
business gain. However -
The solution to this problem may be found in
the identification of routes suitable for multi-use. In other words
it may be reasonable that routes suitable for multi use could be
the criteria required to be met before commercial use or activity
can take place.
The logic to this solution lies in that : The
routes suitable are probably already funded or will be funded by
public funds, and will be maintained. These same routes are capable
of taking the additional wear and tear that commercial activity
I believe that SNH have a duty to take into consideration
the points made here. I believe the points are practical and sensible
and therefore acceptable to both access takers and access providers.
I believe the Access Code could go further than
it has attempted to do in the first draft by offering recommendations
to those taking access. The concept of recommendation, especially
in shorter edited versions of the Code, would be both positive and
I am grateful for having the opportunity to have
attended various road shows organised by SNH on access and now for
having an opportunity for giving my written response.
For Andrew Mylius' response in pdf format click