In terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, local authorities and national park authorities have a duty to formulate a plan for a network of paths - called Core Paths - which are sufficient to enable the public to have reasonable access throughout their area (Section 17). In December 2005, the Scottish Executive produced draft Guidance on the procedures to be followed for local inquiries into Core Paths Plans. Such local inquiries will be heard where valid objections have been made to the draft plan and have not been withdrawn.
Each authority must prepare their draft by February 2008 and must give public notice of their plan and make it available for public inspection and consultation. The consultation period will run for 12 weeks. If valid objections are made, the authority should engage in discussions with the objector with a view to achieving a suitable resolution. To be valid, an objection needs to satisfy three requirements:-
- submission in writing within the time limits;
- requiring a change to the plan; and
- focusing on the purpose, competencies and sufficiencies of the plan, detailing the changes which the objector is seeking – their preferred revisals or additions to the Core Paths.
The authority cannot adopt the plan where an objection has not been withdrawn (unless Ministers direct them to do so). Where there is such an objection, Ministers will not make a direction to adopt the plan without first requiring a local inquiry to be held into whether the plan will, if it is adopted, satisfy the requirements of a Core Paths Plan, which is to provide the public with reasonable access throughout their area. A local inquiry report will then be published, after which Ministers may require the authority to adopt the plan with or without modifications. Ministers may also direct a local inquiry be held where an authority proposes an amendment to their plan following a review.
The Scottish Executive is seeking comments on their proposed Guidance, which is non-statutory, and is inviting responses by 6 March 2006. The consultation document, together with a full text of the draft Guidance, is available on the Scottish Executive website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/12/0995202/52030