Argyll and Bute residents and visitors are being urged to make their voices heard regarding the future of the area’s paths.
The council is currently consulting the public on the finalised draft of the Argyll and Bute Core Paths Plan. This document covers all areas outside the National Park, which has already produced its own plan.
The consultation period ends at midday on Monday, April 4 2011.
The plan will record the most popular paths in Argyll and Bute currently used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Its purpose is to ensure that those routes designated as Core Paths are not obstructed in future, and also that larger developments such as wind farms, through planning gain, improve path networks on the land they affect.
Although the council will not have a duty to improve or maintain the Core Path network once the finalised plan has been produced, the document will enable communities to identify where work is required to improve the quality and promotion of path networks in their area.
The council will support communities helping them to access funding and technical advice.
Over 1,092 miles of paths are included in the proposed Core Paths network, including 147 miles of new paths which have been added since the last consultation.
The plan also proposes 149 launching points to allow the public access to the sea, lochs and rivers for non-motorised water sports including canoeing, diving and sailing.
In addition there are 460 miles of ‘aspirational’ paths – places where the public have told us that they want to see paths in future providing links between communities and to places they want to visit.
Councillor Bruce Marshall, Argyll and Bute’s spokesperson for environment said: “Paths are extremely important, because they allow both residents and visitors easy access to the countryside and areas around communities so they can take enjoy the places where they live and visit.
“Without good opportunities to walk, cycle, ride or access water many visitors to Argyll and Bute might choose to go elsewhere.
“We live in one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland, with an embarrassment of riches in terms of the countryside and natural attractions.
“This is the final chance to comment on what is a significant document as far as the future of that countryside is concerned, and I would urge anyone with an interest who has not already submitted their comments to do so before the consultation ends at midday on Monday, April 4.”
Half of all visitors to Scotland will take a walk of more than two miles and most will take a shorter walk, whilst one in ten will spend time cycling. It is hoped that the opportunities provided by the Core Paths network will help to encourage visitors to come, stay longer and spend more money, supporting local businesses.
Core Paths will be shown on future editions of Ordinance Survey Maps.
The council has written to 300 people who commented on the last draft of the plan as well as more than 1,500 land managers and all the community councils in the area.
The Core Paths Plan can be accessed on line from the council’s website at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk. Visitors to the site should use the A-Z to choose ‘C’ for Core Paths, then follow the links.
The mapping is interactive and it is possible to make representations online from the plan. In the event of any difficulties please call the outdoor access team on 01546 604 119, which will be able to send you paper maps and comments forms.
Any representations made after midday on Monday, April 4 will not be considered.