Footpaths on Dumyat : Understanding What's Happening

This is a letter from the Stirling Observer from 11 October 2017

It is with great disappointment, but not surprise, that I have heard about the controversy regarding the footpaths on Dumyat. Two months ago I retired to Keswick in the Lake District but prior to that I lived in a cottage visible from the Dumyat path for over 20 years and was a regular, often daily, walker up Dumyat. So it is an area that I know extremely well and love. During that time, I was secretary of Stirling Before Pylons, a community member of Stirling Council's Beauly-Denny working group and most recently the council's Beauly-Denny legacy group.

It seems to me that all the official parties to this process have been negligent and not dealt with the matter professionally enough. Some examples include:

1. The Energy Consents Unit of the Scottish Government appointed consultants, Ironside Farrer, with no in-house knowledge of hill path restoration, although the Government knew this work was a requirement as part of the permission they had given for the Beauly-Denny power line.

2. Scottish Power transmission director Pearse Murray is quoted in the Observer of September 20, 2017, that the works had been approved by the legacy group. This is not the case. The group approved the principle of the works but had not, to my knowledge, seen any of the detailed current proposals.

3. The legacy group has failed to meet over the last 12 months despite a number of written requests by myself to the chair that meetings were needed to monitor and approve the detailed proposals. This would have highlighted the current issues in advance.

4. Ironside Farrer held several consultation meetings with Friends of the Ochils and myself. At these meetings we stated that these proposals would be sensitive to the wishes of the community and that wider consultation was required but they decided not to pursue this.

We also stated that their plans were over-engineered and not appropriate for the landscape setting and scale of Dumyat. In our view a more sensitive and complete solution to the erosion caused by walkers and mountain bikers was required. They wrote saying they didn't accept our views and that they were proposing to proceed with their plans which have led to the current complaints.

I visited Stirling last week and was fortunate enough to meet the contractor's site manager who was on Dumyat at the time. He gave me a thorough explanation of the works he was carrying out. This was the first time in all the meetings over several years regarding this project that I felt I was talking to someone who understood the issues associated with upland paths and how they can be implemented. Following this discussion I have some confidence that if his revised proposals are implemented we could see a satisfactory solution on Dumyat. This should involve consultation with the community and experts in the field. My own feeling all along has been that a satisfactory solution would be more expensive than budgeted and I was surprised to learn that Scottish Power have threatened to pull out of the scheme and reinstate their works to date. That is not a realistic option given that their approval for Beauly-Denny included a condition that compensator works would be carried out to the Dumyat path.

In his letter of approval for Beauly-Denny, the Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, also highlighted that the Ochils Area of Great Landscape Value, including Dumyat, was an area where compensatory environmental improvements should be made. He made funds available for this through the Beauly-Denny Mitigation Scheme and provided an additional £75,000 through the planning condition to Stirling Council.

It is important that those currently involved, particularly the community, should ensure that all these funds are fully utilised on the scheme and not used elsewhere. My own view is that additional funding will be required and that this should be forthcoming from Scottish Power. The visual impact of the Beauly-Denny line is recognised as being much more severe than anticipated in this location. I am also concerned that the existing process has wasted a significant proportion of the budget on professional fees and works on site, and that this is ultimately a failure by Scottish Power to manage the process.

Peter Pearson


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