A recent change to Land Reform legislation has given the Scottish Government and Local Authorities the power to temporarily close core paths during outbreaks of animal disease or to accommodate events on land owners' property.

Core paths are networks of key routes that give the public reasonable access to land throughout Scotland. Core paths run over both private and public land and were created under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to encourage public use of the countryside for activities such as walking, running, cycling or horse riding.

The network is protected by law, and Local Authorities may close or divert core paths only under limited circumstances, such as for public safety or to allow land owners to carry out essential maintenance work, such as timber felling. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (Modification) Order 2013, which came into force on 20th December 2013, extends those limited powers of closure to allow the Scottish Government to block core paths during an outbreak of animal disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease. This puts beyond doubt that when access to an area of land is restricted due to outbreak of animal disease, the restriction will also apply to any core paths within that area.

The Modification Order also gives Local Authorities the power, at the request of land owners, to temporarily close core paths for events such as outdoor concerts, village fetes, private weddings, agricultural shows and, as a one-off, the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Where core paths are restricted due to events, land owners will be advised that it is good practice to provide well-signed substitute routes. There has been no time limit set for applications to restrict core paths, and Local Authorities will set their own guidance. However, restrictions of less than 6 days require only the permission of the Local Authority in consultation with the local access forum, a body made up of interested parties including land owners and community groups. Restrictions of 6 days or more will also require the permission of the Scottish Ministers.

To find out more about the new powers of temporary restriction on core paths visit http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/01/8640.

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