Access and Conservation
Limekilns Access Issue - Updates Here!
Thursday 11th June 2009
MCofS Spokeperson to be interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland
Beryl Leatherland, past chair of the MCofS Access & Conservation Committee and resident of Limekilns, will be interviewed on the BBC Radio Scotland programme Out of Doors on Saturday 13 June. Transmission times are:
Saturday 13 June from 06:30 to 08:00
Sunday 14 June from 11:00 to 12:00
Updated 11 June 2009
Update from Hebe Carus, MCofS Access and Conservation Officer
The MCofS is very much in agreement about the priority of access to Limekilns. We were only notified late Tuesday evening, and have been working hard since to gather evidence on which to base a well-argued case for finding a way for climbing to continue here. We do have to be quite clever about our arguments and keep the powers that be on our side by retaining our position of the "wronged" as essentially conservation laws are likely to take precedence over access as access rights do not apply when access is taken irresponsibly. This is explained in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and disturbing birds and bats nests would be "irresponsible." Also, it is illegal under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Hence we need to rely on negotiation. The MCofS access representative in the area who has been involved in keeping a lid on ongoing rumblings for many years and is to discuss the issues with the BBC radio tomorrow morning. She spoke to the Estate office yesterday also, but the Factor was unavailable, she will be trying again today, and will attempt to contact the landowner, Lord Elgin as soon as possible as well as the local Access Officer (the latter, our rep and other interested parties are coincidentally at a Local Access Forum seminar today, so will be unavailable until mid afternoon). The priority for resolution for the local Access Officer depends upon reports of the problem, so I would urge you to contact Alison Irvine at firstname.lastname@example.org to add your voice (copy to myself). In the meantime I have spoken to SNH, and trying to contact Bat Conservation Trust Scotland Officer and am checking guidelines for nest box location. The latter suggests the locations that have been used would not be preferred sites for boxes. Its about gather as much evidence as possible and getting as much support as possible from those with power of persuasion eg. government agencies. I think this is exactly why MCofS exists to do this sort of advocacy work in tricky situations, and why i am surprised there has been so much heat on forums like UKC and Scottishclimbs with only a few reports to ourselves. Presumably the local Access Officer has had similarly few reports, which if true would be disappointing as she represents the authority that needs to have the issue raised numerous times to motivate use of resources to resolve it once and for all.
I hope to resolve this issue on behalf of Scottish climbers quickly and amicably and everyone can go back to enjoying responsible climbing at Limekilns (thatís part of why you pay your subs isnít it!).
From Hebe Carus, MCofS Access and Conservation Officer
I was made aware of this issue at 10pm yesterday, and have been in meetings today to plan a training event for Local Access Forums in understanding access issues so that their advice to local authorities is climber-sympathetic. The one Access & Conservation Officer (myself) and a handful of volunteers to cover the whole of Scotland unfortunately means we cannot monitor UKC and Scottishclimbs, but we are always very open to contact and working to resolve issues reported to us where they cannot be sorted easily by the local Access Officer Ė contacts of these people are on our website. So apologies for not be able to respond until I was informed of the situation.
A local MCofS rep has been monitoring the Gellet Rocks for climbers for around 3 years or more, and we have been involved in fire fighting issues since 1989, also updating climbers about the situation in the Scottish Mountaineer [Journal of the Mountaineering Council for Scotland]. We have been in frequent contact with the Fife Council Access Officer. These are the people with the statutory duty to uphold access rights, although usually have a huge backlog of issues and cannot always react as quickly as the reporter would ideally wish.
So as not to provide the landowner with ammunition against climbers, we have reminded people to keep the place tidy, park so as not to annoy locals, to use the local businesses etc etc and for local mountaineering clubs to keep a low profile at the crags to keep numbers manageable. In general the reaction has been excellent and because of this, the access issues has not flared up for a while, although there was still the outstanding matter of the fence with no official crossing point, and we are all a little frustrated that this is taking so long, but due to other statutory duties of access authorities, limekilns is not treated as a priority and I would urge all climbers this affects to report the difficulty of exercising your access rights responsibly due to the fact that there is no official crossing point in the fence to allow access. Most access authorities treat issues on a priority basis based on the number of reports. All your reports will move Limekilns up the agenda, which will then force an opening of negotiations at which point MCofS is ready to argue our case and find a long term solution.
Apparently this latest flare up has been spurred by people camping and lighting fires in the woods recently and Lord Elgin (owner) probably thought these were climber-linked and so has used this cunning plan with bat boxes as a new approach to stop climbers. Back in 1989 (pre-Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003) MCofS started trying to sort out the access problem, but without the law to back us up, it was all about good will and little rights. As we were in discussion, the following was painted on the rock "F*** Off Lord Elgin"!!! This escalated to land owner representatives painting all the holds with grease and refused to enter into discussion with us anymore. Not a great stance from which to negotiate and argue climbers are a nice responsible bunch that should be given access. Direct action, understandably tempting, is likely to be unhelpful, as essentially would be vandalism, and against the law (more ammunition for the landowner?).
I am currently on a train back north but have been in touch with the MCofS office, and there has been no contact from BBC and will certainly be chasing this as soon as I reach a phone, as well as liaising with MCofS local rep, Access Officer and Bat Conservation Trust. We have these contact networks already established for the very reason we can work on behalf of our members. Thanks to the 2 people that reported this issue direct to MCofS! We are now in a position where we can help.
Access and Conservation Officer