This email was sent to the press but not all the parties listed! Gairloch CC, Visit Wester Ross, Melvaig Crofters and GBB Estates did not receive this email from the McLachlans as claimed but got it from the press when being asked for comment!
Gairloch Community Council
Visit Wester Ross
Ms Christine Clyde, Northern Lighthouse Board
Mr Mark Williams, Inverasdale Estate
Constable Neil Rathbone, Gairloch Police Station
Councillor Richard Greene, Highland Council
Mr Philip Waite, Highland Council Access Officer
Mr Alex MacAskill, Melvaig Common Grazings Committee
Re: Private road from Melvaig to Rua Reidh Lighthouse
We are very disappointed that the Inverasdale Estate, Gairloch Community Council, Visit Wester Ross and the Melvaig Crofters refused to meet with us to discuss the situation with access around Rua Reidh Lighthouse and have instead engaged in a vitriolic, unprofessional and aggressive campaign against us. We feel that a mutually agreeable way forward would have been much better for all concerned and a sensible compromise could have been reached.
You will recall that we took legal advice about the whole question of access. That advice has not changed and the situation remains that
· There is no public vehicular right of way over the road
· The only party who can allow access is Mark Williams, however he has to pay due regard to his agreements with other parties with an interest in the road e.g. the NLB and ourselves. The terms of our title make it clear that Mr Williams cannot grant access over and above normal Estate personal, agricultural and sporting usage
Mr Williams has stated that he is happy for the public to drive on the private road. This effectively gives the public a right of passage (NOT a right of way) which has been confirmed by Highland Council. Mr Williams (or a future owner of the Estate) could withdraw permission at any time, at which point the right of passage would cease.
Mr Williams is in clear breach of his agreement with us by allowing the public to drive on the road, however this is a civil matter between Mr Williams and ourselves and we will follow that up with him separately.
You will recall that our initial reasons for asking for access on the road to be restricted were because of maintenance costs and privacy.
As far as maintenance costs are concerned, Mr Williams allowing it to become a public right of passage is good news for us, as Mr Williams is now liable for the maintenance of of the road. Highland Council have no responsibility for maintenance but they do have a duty to ensure that the road is safe for the public. Mr Williams is also liable for any accident or injury to the public on his land. Mr Williams has confirmed to us that the owners of the Keepers Accommodation have no obligation to the Estate to maintain the road.
As far as our own land is concerned, the public have no right of passage on our land and we will take appropriate steps to ensure there is no vehicle access. For the avoidance of doubt, we bought the buildings at the lighthouse in Feb 2013 and in a separate transaction in Feb 2014 bought a further area of land around the lighthouse from the Estate.
Turning to the issue of privacy, the “right to roam” legislation is clear on the rights of privacy for the owners of private houses. The legislation states (ref Scottish Outdoor Access Code section 3.17) that regardless of who owns the land around a private building:
When close to a house or garden, you must respect people’s privacy and peace of mind by:
· using a path or track if there is one;
· keeping a sensible distance from the house and avoiding ground that overlooks the house or garden from close by
· keeping a sensible distance from a waterside house if you are on the water
· not lingering or acting in ways which might annoy or alarm people living in the house; and
· keeping noise to a minimum
The best views of the lighthouse can be appreciated from the road above the lighthouse, which is less than 50 metres from the buildings. Walkers can access the jetty and cliffs via the signed footpath and have over 18,000 acres of the peninsula in which to exercise their right to roam. There is absolutely no need for walkers to leave the road on the lighthouse side and approach the lighthouse buildings, or to walk on the couple of acres of land that surrounds the lighthouse. We will be taking steps to ensure that our signage makes it very clear that it is private property and that there are no visitor facilities.
· There is no public vehicular right of way over the road, but Mr Williams has (in breach of his agreement with us) allowed the public to use it, thus creating a right of passage while he allows the public access
· Maintenance of the road is the responsibility of the Inverasdale Estate
· Liability for any accident or injury on the road lies with the Inverasdale Estate
· The public have a responsibility to respect our privacy under the “right to roam” near the lighthouse buildings and must keep to the road and signed footpath
I trust this makes our position clear.
Tracy & Roger McLachlan
Rua Reidh Lighthouse
Melvaig, Gairloch, Wester Ross, IV21 2EA