Compromise call in Core Path dispute

Access to the Core Path is blocked
Access to the Core Path is blocked

Wigtown Community Council members say they could accept a compromise solution to a long-running dispute over a blocked Core Path at Bladnoch if a new access was created.

The route, Core Path 378, which is accessed through the Bladnoch Distillery grounds, was closed off by the Distillery owner in early 2016, who cited security and health and safety reasons, leaving walkers, weekend ramblers and fishermen fuming.

The Distillery then wrote to Dumfries and Galloway Council, who are responsible for Core Paths, asking for the path to be extinguished altogether. The Council’s Economic, Environment and Infrastructure Committee were due to make a decision in June, but the matter has now been deferred to the September meeting after the community council pointed out they had not been consulted.

Wigtown Community Council had asked the local authority to take legal action to get access reinstated, but with the estimated costs involved making that unlikely, the community council now say they would accept the compromise of a new access point to the Core Path, away from the distillery manager’s house, where the path goes through a private garden.

Dumfries and Galloway Council did request the distillery to reopen the 700-metre path until the formal process about its future is completed, but it remains inaccessible.

In an open letter in this week’s Galloway Gazette, The Royal Burgh of Wigtown and District community council convenor Sandra McDowall expressed the organisation’s support for the Distillery’s new owner, David Prior, his investment in the business and the economic benefits the local area will enjoy once the Distillery reopens in 2018. But, the letter questions Mr Prior’s ethos to “restore the heart and soul of the local community” through developing the distillery when his actions are having a “detrimental effect on the local community with their unauthorised closure and proposed extinguishment of the Core Path along the river”.

The community council have also accused the Distillery Management of being “heavy-handed” and having a “cavalier approach” to planning rules. With the popular path blocked off, other groups have been affected.

A spokesperson for The Wigtownshire Group of Ramblers said: “The ramblers object most strongly to the proposed deletion of the Dumfries & Galloway Core Path no 378 from Bladnoch Distillery along the banks of the river. This path provides an attractive, level walk along the bank of the upper tidal region of the river and the lade which feeds the distillery.”

“It has a variety of attractive views over the water and its associated wildlife.

“The path is also important as a link for walks from features further up the river such as the Torhouse stone circle and the Torhousemuir crofts along the river bank and through the Cotland woods to Wigtown. If this link is broken it will be difficult to find an alternative.

“We would have no objection to diverting the path around the garden at the distillery but it is important that any new route retained the easy access and generally level nature and views of the river enjoyed from the existing route.”

Mr Michael McNeill from Shennaton Estates, who has long established fishing rights on the stretch of the River Bladnoch accessed by the Core Path, said he was “disappointed” about the current situation.

He added: “As far as I am aware, we have a right to the fishing and access along the bank of the river.”

A spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway Council added: “The Council are aware of the issues surrounding this core path and are currently exploring options. A full report will be presented to the Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee in September.”

The council’s report states: “Core Path 368 starts at the distillery buildings, crossing both a private car park and a private garden, it then continues along the River Bladnoch. The distillery will soon be commencing commercial production and unimpeded public access is incompatible to the operation of a commercial distillery operation.

“The previous owners of the site encouraged the public to use the route as it suited their business model.”

Bladnoch Distillery declined to comment.