An £11 million golf course in Fife is at the centre of a right of way row.
The ScotWays charity, which upholds and promotes public access rights in Scotland, has formally objected to plans to divert a public right of way at Dumbarnie Links near Drumeldrie.
The campaigners said the move, to be considered by Fife councillors, is “totally unacceptable”.
However, the developers say it will actually make the route more accesible and others, such as the British Horse Society, are also backing the changes.
Members of the Levenmouth area committee will be asked to rubber-stamp the diversion to the right of way, which is known as FN702 and currently runs along the bed of a disused railway line.
Bosses at Dumbarnie Links insist it will be an improvement on the current route, in that it will be subject to a regular maintenance routine and the surface will be of a higher standard.
However, ScotWays is against the changes on the basis it will make the route longer and steeper in parts.
Lynda Grant, access officer at ScotWays, said: “This proposal comes as an afterthought rather than an issue that should have been considered well in advance of any development commencing.
“It appears that there has been no consideration of diverting the right of way for the benefit of access takers.
“This new path seems to have been created purely as a way of managing access takers through the golf course.
“The Society welcomes improvements to public access and this new path will indeed provide a new route across the site, but it should be seen as that. This new route is not an acceptable route for FN702 to be diverted on to.”
The route was first recorded in 1975, but during construction of the golf course the line of the right of way moved on to newly-developed buggy tracks on the golf course.
Fife Council has conceded that the route is longer, 4,392 metres compared to the original route’s 4,122 metres, but local authority officers don’t see this as a problem.
They add that the route will be maintained by the golf course and is subject to weekly inspections to check its condition.
Land owner Anthony Balniel, who owns Balcarres Estate, has given the plans his full support.
“I have been to the new links course on many occasions and believe that the new route is significantly better for many reasons,” he said.
“The removal of barbed wire linear fences with several poorly functioning gates will not only facilitate access but also offers a more visually appealing route. The maintained surface will also allow a much safer experience for the public.”
Helene Mauchlen, national manager with the British Horse Society, said her organisation also supports the changes.
“We actually think the proposed new path will be much more interesting to travel along and also meet the environmental and landscape goals outlined,” she said.
“We are also delighted that the access policy is multi-use in line with the Land Reform Scotland 2003 Act and that horse riders are welcomed to this beautiful corner of the East Neuk of Fife.
“We will make sure (as far as is possible) that horse riders are considerate when they take access.”