Tuley v Highland Council Dingwall Sheriff Court, Ref B201/05

This case, the first access case to complete a full proof, occupied Monday 27th November to Wednesday 29th November at Dingwall Sheriff Court.

It included a site visit to the wood. The visit in the Archerfield case had consisted only of the Sheriff and the Parties’ Counsel and agents, and that in the Gloag case the Sheriff, the Parties and the press. Here, however, the Sheriff pointed out that as it was agreed that access rights applied to the wood, the public were entitled to be present, though not to speak. Fortunately the only hour of sunshine in a day of heavy showers coincided with the visit, and some idea was given of the wonderful views to be obtained from the wood.

There was a strong ScotWays flavour to the hearings. The Petitioner and the Respondents were both members of the Society, as were 50% of the witnesses and 100% of the attending public.

Counsel for Mr Tuley accepted the integrity of Phil Waite of Highland Council, and of Pat Somerville of the British Horse Society (and a Director of ScotWays), whom he described as an intelligent witness who had clearly thought hard about the issues involved, and whose material giving guidance on horse access he regarded as giving clear and sound advice to horse riders. He described Mr John Wombell (a witness for Mr Tuley) as having personal knowledge of the wood and wide experience of outdoor paths.

Graham Tuley\’s unstinting efforts in the wood, aided from time to time by John Wombell, were commended by both Counsel, and by all the witnesses. When he and Margot Tuley showed the Court round the wood, it was sad to see their efforts frustrated by trees uprooted in a recent storm blocking two paths, previously available to walkers and riders alike.

It is not known how long it will be before the Sheriff will deliver his judgment.

A fuller report on the Case, which raised issues of general significance, will be
issued shortly.

GM, 01 December 2006