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Dumyat path controversy

Thursday 21st September 2017, 10:13am

Work to restore a heavily eroded path on Dumyat in the Ochils has been temporarily halted following controversy over the scale of the operation.

Local walkers hit out at path construction work which they felt was out of proportion to the setting.

One Mountaineering Scotland member wrote: “I went to have a look at the newly dug path from the Sheriffmuir car lay-by towards Dumyat. Horrendous over-engineering has created what appears to be an estate-style road for about 300m towards the start of a ‘rocky’ section. Most discerning hillwalkers would cringe at the extreme efforts made to dig up sensitive ground. The contractors have put a deeply dug 2-3 metre wide raised track-bed ready for surfacing over the last 200m, totally unsympathetic to the gentle approach required.”

Following more complaints, including an approach from Mountaineering Scotland, and intervention from Keith Brown MSP, Scottish Power Energy Networks, which had contracted out the work as part of planning consent for the Beauly to Denny 400kV overhead line, stopped work at the site pending meetings with key stakeholders to agree the most appropriate way forward.

Colin Wylie, of SP Energy Network, said the work being undertaken was part of wider operations aimed at enhancing landscape features to either improve the quality of the landscape around the overhead line or provide screening to the overhead line itself.

He said: “In the area around the Ochils, several kilometres of drystone walling is being restored along prominent areas of the landscape whilst native woodland planting is being reinstated or introduced. Car parking facilities and forest trails have already been installed to help alleviate severe erosion on areas of the hill caused by the parking of cars.

“Work also recently commenced to develop upland hill paths which are designed to safeguard and enhance the landscape. The existing hill path at Dumyat Hill is hugely popular. The existing hill path is severely eroded, with multiple routes, gullying, spread and with marshy sections which are gathering water. As users avoid these areas, moving wider and wider from the original route, the problem of erosion is only increasing.

“Consultation and a specialist survey of the site confirmed an overriding need to deliver some intervention which will prevent ever-increasing deterioration of the existing trails. Without intervention, the route will only continue to deteriorate. The Partnership Group approved a project to undertake works on a number of sections of the path. In taking forward the project, SP Energy Networks is carefully applying guidance from Scottish Natural Heritage and The Upland Path Advisory Group (UPAG) and has engaged path surveyors and specialist contractors to undertake the work.”

He added: “A project such as this inevitably results in disruption to users and adverse short-term visual impacts during the construction phase, but SP Energy Networks would like to reassure path users and other interested stakeholders that the long term benefits of the project will enhance the path and protect this important amenity for many years to come.”

However he said that work had been immediately halted after learning of the concern from users of the path about the impact of the work and meetings with key stakeholders were arranged to agree the most appropriate way forward.

Latest news is that the work already started will be completed, with Grant Douglas, an environmental planner with SP Energy Networks stressing that the finished path, being built by a contractor approved by Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, would be narrower than the current appearance.

He said: “This sort of pathwork always looks worse during the construction phase. I hope people will be patient and wait to see how the finished path looks.”

Any further work on the project will await more consultation with interested parties to determine the extent and nature of the path.

Colin Wylie said: “SP Energy Networks encourages interested parties to express their views on this matter with any of the stakeholder bodies represented on the Beauly Denny Legacy Steering or Partnership Groups.”

An eroded section of the path to be replaced.