After failing to find an alternative access point, Dumfries and Galloway Council wants to take legal action to reopen a popular footpath.
At next Tuesday’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee meeting the local authority will ask elected members to approve delegating to its legal team “the mechanism for allowing public access under the applicable law”.
Core Path 378 at Bladnoch has been at the heart of a dispute for more than a year after the new owners of the Bladnoch Distillery locked the gates leading to the path citing health and safety concerns. The owners have also formally requested the council extinguish the path, but both Wigtown Community Council and local ramblers have strongly objected to this.
The council’s access team looked at three alternative access points. Firstly, from Bladnoch Bridge along the verge of the distillery car park, following the riverbank. But the officers had concerns about the high spring tide and associated flooding risks.
The second option was through Cotland Farm, and while the landowner was sympathetic to public access, he did not want the formal establishment of a core path as it would reduce the area of grazing land through the erection of a fence to create a path corridor, and the farmland was used mainly for rearing young stock which was not compatible with increased formal public access.
The third option, for access from the south bank of the River Bladnoch, was ruled out as a path there would be technically difficult and costly due to the terrain.
That meant the only option left was to retain the existing route of Core Path 378. In a report to elected members, the council accepted that, “the concerns expressed by the Distillery would require additional works to be undertaken along the length of the path and signage in place to mitigate the issues and concerns expressed”.
The Machars area is to become a priority for new core paths next year.