DON’T FENCE US OUT, LEVEN ANGLERS TELL COUNCIL

DSC_0014  A lone angler fishing on the River Leven upstream of the Broadmeadow riverbank which has been fenced off. Picture by Bill Heaney  

                        River Leven right of way has been closed to anglers. 

EXCLUSIVE by Bill Heaney

Anglers are furious at a decision to fence them out of popular stretch of the banks of the River Leven in Dumbarton.

The embankment footpath at Broadmeadow has been a designated right of way since time immemorial.

Some anglers are so angry that the offending fence has already been vandalised.

They claim that the authorities have taken the Health and Safety laws to the extreme and over-reacted to the erosion of a 100 metre stretch which has been deemed dangerous.

One furious angler told The Democrat: “For the past 60 years at least, the River Leven east bank fishing has been accessed by anglers using the signposted public right of way from Broadmeadow.

“The path runs approximately three quarters of a mile upstream to the Blue Bridge.

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Signs for the path but no diversion information.

“The fishings, looking upstream from Dumbarton, encapsulate a pleasant stretch of water, which anglers have enjoyed for generations.

“The runs, riffles, and pools are of local fishing legend, and include the Slaughter House Hole, The Big Run, Shallow Bank, Bog Stream, Golf Course run, and the renowned Pump House Hole. But most critically, the footpath is the sole access and escape route for  anglers during each daily high tide period and flood conditions.”

He added: “This is Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association water, which stretches for approximately three quarters of a mile, is popular with anglers, and on its day can offer excellent sea trout fishing with a prospect of salmon and grilse if the angler’s timing is right.”

The angler said he was there last month when he “had a tentative pull from a salmon, which swirled at my silver stoat fly, providing a heart stopping moment which unfortunately proved to be the only excitement of the day.”

The man, who is in his 70s, said: “After my salmon ‘near miss’ incident, I returned to fish last week and started to walk from Broadmeadow along the ancient right of way.

“But, within a minutes, I was stopped in my tracks by a new 1.5 metre Alcatraz type fence with ominous pointed spearheads and a locked gate.”

A grandfather himself, the angler added: “Woe betide the child who slips when climbing over this fence, as they certainly will.”

He said it seemed “incomprehensible” that the barrier had been erected “in the intervening period, without notification to anglers and the general public.

“There is no signage for any diversion route, because there isn’t one, and this intimidating barrier closes the river off, denying angling permit holders access to fish.”

The angler said he was forced to take a detour around Dumbarton Golf Club’s course and that he then discovered a second barrier near the Blue Bridge.

He added: “The solution to this 100 metres of erosion along the bank has been to close access to the whole river bank.

“Talk about taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut. There is not another salmon river in Scotland where this would be tolerated.

“I don’t know whose idea this was but it amounts to denying public access along the riverbank footpath which is a right of way. It’s completely contrary to Scotland’s Rights of Way legislation.”

It is remarkable that West Dunbartonshire Council, which usually suffers from “consultationitis,”  told no one about their plan to erect these fences.

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Jackie Baillie MSP

Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton, Helensburgh and Lomond, said: ““It is disappointing that access to the Pump House on the River Leven has been completely closed without notice and with no alternative route for anglers or pedestrians.

“It is clear that the repairs to the path at the Golf Course are necessary but anglers have been accessing this area of the River Leven for decades and it is important that access is retained. I hope that an alternative route will be found as quickly as possible.

“I contacted the Council about this in May and await a response about the time it will take to have the right of way restored.”

Dumbarton man Jim McAleer, who doesn’t fish but loves the walk along the riverbank, said: ” It is not only anglers who feel aggrieved, what about the regular walkers? According to the council’s own web-site they are doing this because of erosion in the bank near to the golf club. The site goes on to tell us that they will maybe, at some unspecified time in the future, do something about the erosion. Yeah?

“The fencing looks permanent and expensive – too expensive for a temporary solution to a short-term crisis. Could the council be “kickin’ the ba’ into the long grass” and hoping that no one makes too much of a fuss over rights of way? Come to think of it, if this right-of-way is usurped for long enough could someone make a profit out of the land?”

We couldn’t find reference to it on the website, even here (below) where we thought it would be the place to put it. Maybe the Council’s secrecy strategy came into play.

West Dunbartonshire Access Forum

The West Dunbartonshire Access Forum was created as a requirement of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and provides independent advice to anybody wishing to use their access rights, land owners and managers, and West Dunbartonshire Council.

The Forum has members representing the interests of those making use of access to the countryside as well as land owners and managers, to ensure that all aspects of access issues can be helpfully addressed. While not public meetings, the meetings are open for members of the public to attend. Anybody who wishes to have an issue raised for discussion, or who wishes to address the Forum should contact the Secretary via email. The Forum will also make site visits when necessary to understand an issue that has been brought to it.

General access problems such as locked gates and blocked paths should normally be referred to the Council Access Officer who will conduct the initial investigation and may refer some issues to the Forum if necessary.

West Dunbartonshire Council refused to comment or to guide us to where it is since they do not answer questions from The Democrat. If it takes three months for them to reply to the MSP, what chance have the rest of us got?

There is a saying that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear. From their stance on not commenting  and lying publicly about us it has become apparent in recent months that they have plenty to hide.

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              Don’t fence me out. No access for anglers to the River Leven alongside the golf course at Broadmeadow.

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