Path dispute close to conclusion

The fence which was erected at the path to Penicuik Estate.
The fence which was erected at the path to Penicuik Estate.

A long-running dispute over access to a Penicuik path has taken a step closer to conclusion following a recent court case.

The route between Cairnbank Road and Penicuik Estate was blocked with a fence by residents Stewart and Gemma Manson in June 2016, prompting more than 100 complaints and a petition to Midlothian Council.

The couple had said they had blocked the well-used path to Penicuik Estate due to instances of antisocial behaviour and abuse directed at their son, now eight, who is autistic.

Midlothian Access Forum followed up the complaints by visiting the Cairnbank Road area and suggesting another route which was found to be unsuitable for most users.

They also noted that the eight feet high fence, which was painted with non-drying anti-vandal paint and covered by a CCTV camera, later found to be fake, constituted an impregnable barrier.

Taking into account further information from residents and public complaints, the forum asked the council to have the route re-opened. The council served a notice in February 2017 requiring removal of the fence and signage, under Section 14 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act.

Mr and Mrs Manson appealed to the Sheriff Court, but Sheriff Fiona Reith ruled in favour of Midlothian Council earlier this month.

A further hearing will be heard to settle expenses and it is understood Mr and Mrs Manson could still appeal the decision.

A Midlothian Council spokeswoman said: “The court process has not yet fully concluded. As soon as it does, the council will work with the owners to take down the obstruction and open up access along Cairnbank Road on to Penicuik Estate.”

The decision has been welcomed by Ramblers Scotland, which also raised the matter with the local authority.

Helen Todd, campaigns and policy manager, said: “We warmly congratulate the council and all those who campaigned to achieve this excellent result, which upholds public access to a beautiful estate via a popular route.

“I hope the sheriff’s judgement will serve as a reminder that it is landowners’ duty to manage their properties in a way that respects Scotland’s world-class rights of public access.”