A CHARITY encouraging people to enjoy the great outdoors has hit out at restrictions at a car park in East Lothian's Lammermuir Hills.

A decision by land managers to limit public access to the Hopes Estate was met with widespread criticism.

Now, with Moorfoot Capital Management Ltd seeking retrospective permission for a car park and gates, Ramblers Scotland has objected to the application.

The charity has been contacted by members “on many occasions” over the last two to three years with concerns over parking on Hopes Estate, near Gifford.

The car park became increasingly busy during the Covid-19 pandemic as people enjoyed the outdoors.

Ramblers Scotland suggested there was no evidence that this had become “a long-term trend” on the estate with ongoing visitors.

The letter reads: “We note that the supporting statement sets out that there was no car parking provision at this location prior to this car park being constructed.

“Yet it is our understanding that before the works which were carried out by Scottish Water and referenced in the supporting statement, people parked in the existing Scottish Water car park.

“During lockdown, we are aware that parking took place along the verges of the public road to the estate from the junction at Longyester.

“This is now strongly discouraged by the estate through the use of signage and tree planting to block the verges.

“However, there is, in fact, a long history of people enjoying visits to the reservoir and surrounding area without causing any issues.

“We understand that Scottish Water continues to welcome visitors to use its own car park when there is no official business being carried out.

“We were pleased, therefore, when we learned in April 2021 that a new car park had been constructed on the site previously used as a compound by Scottish Water on the opposite side of the road to the existing car park.

“We understood this would provide additional parking for visitors, which we hoped would enable people to continue to park when the Scottish Water car park was closed or on busy weekends.”

However, members had been in touch with the national group to highlight “a number of restrictions that made it impossible” for them to use the car park.

'Intimidatory signage'

The letter suggests that the car park was only open three or four days a week and a permit had to be purchased in advance in Gifford.

“Our members reported that there were only 14 permits per month to be sold, despite the car park having space for 20 cars, and these had immediately sold out,” the group’s statement reads.

“We do not believe it is sustainable to continue to create a car park which is only available on certain days and on purchase of a permit.

“This is an indirect obstruction to public access given there is no public transport to this site and it is a long walk from Gifford or surrounding settlements.”

Ramblers Scotland called for the car park to be kept open all year round, with the exception of when it was needed by Scottish Water.

Similarly, the gate to the car park was to be kept open and unlocked, and they called for “intimidatory signage” on the approach to Hopes Estate to be removed.

Robbie Douglas-Miller, of the Hopes Estate, and a director of Moorfoot Capital Management Ltd, declined to comment.

A decision on the proposals is expected by April 8.