LOCALS who have regularly used the now fenced off Balmashanner paths for many years are up in arms at the decision to close off the paths.
A number of readers contacted the Dispatch, some only just learning of the access issue after reading the article in last week’s paper as the recent wintry weather had meant they had been unable to walk in the area.
The fence is restricting access for walkers at Balmashanner and is situated south of the Balmashanner Hill housing estate, at the top of Northampton Road, and is blocking access to the general public.
It has been restricting access for the public to cross the field from the top of Northampton Road to the Balmashanner path network since March 1.
Nan Hargraves, a resident for the past 16 years, wrote to the Forfar Dispatch appealing for members of the public for evidence of the path’s use in the last 20 years, as she believes the path should be considered a right of way.
Nan thanked the Forfar Dispatch for bringing the access issue to the public’s attention, she said: “I am in correspondence with Angus Council’s Countryside’s Access Officer with regards to the denial of public access with locked gates and no way to gain entry or exit to the field.
“In discussions with Angus Council, there is clear evidence of a path across Balmashanner Hill from an aerial photograph taken in 2006; however it is not visible in an aerial photograph taken in 2000.
“Having spoken with several people, they say that they have walked this field with or without their pets for in excess of 20 years. However, unfortunately at this stage we lack evidence of this.”
In response, Mr Andrew Reid, a resident and keen walker, said he was “considerably upset” to learn that Balmashanner had been blocked off and a Mrs Preston, who has lived in the area since 1991, told how her late husband and herself had used the path also for many years.
Also unhappy with the decision to erect fences and put up locked gates was Mr Fred Valentine who regularly used to jog and run the paths at Balmashanner.
Another reader, who did not wish to be named, expressed “sheer disgust” at the erection of the fences and gates.
A spokesperson from ScotsWays, the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society, said: “There is a recorded right of way to Balmashanner Hill in our records but it does not go from Northampton Road. As far as I can tell there is no recorded right of way connecting across the field as you describe. The route may meet the conditions to be a right of way but that would require proof and to get the proof is generally time-consuming and expensive.
“Whilst I can understand why vehicles might be denied access, it may be that the council will consider negotiation with the landowner or tenant over more informal access.”
Angus Council is currently investigating the issue with the right of way at Balmashanner and a spokesperson for the local authority said: “The council is aware of the situation, having received a number of enquiries from members for the public.
“A worn route appears to have become established across the fields in question, due to use by the public. It is unclear whether this route has been used for the 20-year-period necessary for a public right of way to have been created. We are investigating the matter.”
In Scotland, a right of way is defined as any route over which the public has been able to pass unhindered for at least 20 years.
The route must link two ‘public places’ such as villages, churches or roads, for example.
If you have used the paths at Balmashanner then Nan Hargraves is appealing for evidence of the path’s use in the last 20 years. Any information can be forwarded to Nan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.