Council hit with over 70 complaints about barrier

The barricade in Penicuik
The barricade in Penicuik

Midlothian Council has received more than 70 complaints from local residents over a barricade blocking access to an area in Penicuik popular with walkers.

And the council has not ruled out further action in a bid to get a legal ruling if the matter cannot be resolved out of court.

A gate was erected at Cairnbank Road, which gave walkers access to the Penicuik Estate, in June. It was erected in response to the council removing ‘no access’ signs.

It is understood the resident who put up the obstruction did so on privacy grounds. The resident was contacted by the Advertiser but declined to comment.

Part of the road is public but the section where the barricade is placed is private. However, under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, a right of access to the road and popular woodlands for the public has to be maintained.

Midlothian Council told the Advertiser it had received more than 70 complaints from people in the wider Penicuik area since early June. It added that “the letters and emails sent to us by these complainants indicate the private road has been used by the public for over 40 years”.

The council has asked for its removal as well as the removal of three nearby signs saying there is no access to the public along the route to Penicuik Estate.

And there is another sign in the area demanding access.

A council spokesman said: “We have written to the owners of the fence to remove the obstruction and to the owner of the gate at the Penicuik end of the private road to remove or change the wording on the non-compliant signage.

“We have also had a meeting with the owners of the land upon which the obstruction was erected and their legal representatives to try and resolve the matter.”

The spokesman added the owner was contesting the right to responsible access on the grounds of privacy.

“This has been examined from a legal perspective by both the owner and the council’s internal legal team but may, if the matter cannot be resolved, require a final decision from a sheriff”, the spokesman added.

Under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, it is a local authority’s duty to uphold access if it applies.

The Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society (ScotWays) has been contacted by “many people” concerned about the installation of the fence and a locked gate blocking access.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “Although this route does not appear to meet the criteria to be a public right of way, it is promoted as a local walk and is clearly popular given the volume of complaints we received and we consider the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to apply.”