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Improving Access

Option 20 - Improving access

(Option closed to new applications from 2014)

What is this about

Most people prefer to use clear, identified paths for enjoying access in the outdoors. This option aims to help upgrade and enhance paths/routes that were previously footpaths only to make them accessible to a fuller range of users, including members of the public, cyclists, horse riders and persons with disabilities. This option will provide enhanced paths and signs, to encourage responsible public outdoor access for the full range of users, and to integrate access with good land management. This will have wider benefits for health improvement and increased physical activity. By providing marked paths, you can encourage local people and visitors to exercise their access rights on paths which are best suited for the purpose.

Support will be available for the priorities of enhancing and marking paths and routes which link to local networks, give access to attractive places, or meet a local need. This option can include access to inland water, such as lochs and rivers. These access facilities and improvements will provide a sustainable resource for nearby communities, visitors, and enterprises, and give broad social and economic benefits, along with better opportunities for local outdoor access and recreation.


What will this achieve

This option will encourage land managers to

  • enhance and mark access paths/routes for all types of users to help them exercise their rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003,
  • encourage the use of routes that provide public benefits and integrate responsible access with land management activities.

What you must do

Support will be given for enhancing and marking existing paths/routes which meet the priorities of:

  • linking to local networks,
  • giving access to points of attraction, or
  • meeting local needs of the full range of users, including access to core paths.

The full range of users includes members of the public, cyclists, horse riders and persons with disabilities.

Paths must be continuous across your land, and must be suitable for appropriate use all year round. Routes to inland water are also eligible. The path/route and the associated eligible capital items must meet all of the technical specifications contained at the end of this option. This includes being well-drained, fit for the intended purpose, free from obstructions, signposted and waymarked, and regularly inspected. The written agreement of the local access officer must be obtained for installation of stiles.

Separate copies of the map must be submitted to your local SGRPID Area Office and to your local access officer by 31 August in year one of your agreement. This is to inform the local authority or national park authority, and to help ensure that the proposal meets at least one of the criteria set out above. It may also be used as the basis for public information on access opportunities.

Who can apply

The measure is available to all rural land managers.

When you are planning your path application, you must inform your local authority (or national park authority in a national park) access officer, to help ensure that it meets at least one of the priorities and the technical specifications below. Every effort must be made to link your path into other local path networks, and local access officers can provide useful advice on existing and proposed local path networks.

How to apply

Complete Section 4 of the LMO application form using one of the following codes. The code for Enhancement is LMOIAM. The total applied for should be an estimate of 75% of the cost but the claim will be limited to the amount on the application.

If you are applying for a capital item then use the following codes. The code required for a Boardwalk is LMOIAW, for a bridge LMOIAB and if it is a Culvert enter LMOIAC. The amount applied for should be an estimate of 75% of the cost and we will pay up to a maximum of £150 for each item.

Eligibility criteria

You cannot apply to enhance a path that is already being enhanced, managed or maintained by another organisation or individual. Applicants must confirm that no other funding mechanism or organisation is enhancing, managing or maintaining any of the paths or facilities/capital items claimed for under this application. This is in addition to the declaration that you are not claiming payments under any other scheme.

All tarmac/bitumen surfaced motor-vehicle tracks are ineligible.

The path must meet at least one of the improving access priorities and all of the technical specifications.

Improving access priorities

1. Linking to local networks

The path must link with other routes within and at the boundaries of your land and form part of a wider network. If your path starts at or crosses a public road, consider road safety and talk to your local authority roads department before submitting your application.

2. Give access to points of attraction

The path must provide reasonably direct access across your land, providing access to a feature(s) of interest such as a viewpoint, loch, cultural or historical feature.

3. Meet a local need

If the path does not connect to a wider network and does not give access to points of attraction, you must demonstrate that it serves some other clear purpose or meets a local need.

The bridge capital item available under this measure is only eligible where the bridge is of a type which is not designed for motorised vehicle use. The bridge will be for members of the public exercising their rights under Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to link two paths or routes together and cannot be used for vehicle infra-structure purposes.

Path development and improvement related items under this option cannot be supported for the same access provision purpose being undertaken in other options in the Scotland Rural Development Programme. These include:

  • Provision or improvements of roads bridges culverts, gates; or formation or improvement of access track to land improvement areas as part of the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme.
  • Provision and upgrading of infrastructure related to access to farm and forest land, energy supplies and water management and Access creation for sustainable forest management.
  • Livestock tracks, gates and river crossings.
  • Sustainable management of forests and woodlands.
  • Woods in and around towns challenge fund.
  • Support for diversification outwith agriculture.
  • Support for the development and creation of micro-enterprises.
  • Provision, development or upgrading of small scale tourist faculties by land managers.
  • Information and awareness raising.
  • Area access management and monitoring, and creation and upgrading of paths and routes.
  • Forests for people challenge fund.
  • Provisions of leisure, recreation, sporting, catering and other rural community services and facilities.

What costs could be supported

This is a five year management agreement and we will pay 75% of actual costs supported by invoices. We will pay for items referred to in the technical specification which deliver enhanced path works you have undertaken to improve access as including removing overgrown plants and grass, controlling weed encroachment, installing filter drains, providing gates, signposts and waymarkers.

You can also claim for the one-off costs of installing certain capital items. The rate of support is 75% of costs for installing boardwalks, bridges, and culverts (up to a maximum of £150 for each item). All capital items must be completed before the applicant can claim for the path enhancement works

The capital items purchased under this option must be retained in good condition for 5 years unless you can provide evidence that:

i. force majeure applies; or
ii. the items have been replaced with an eligible item of equivalent or higher specification.


For verification purposes the applicant must keep the receipts for all costs incurred. The applicant must identify the route on a 1:10,000 map showing the location of the path to be managed and the location and type of capital items for which the applicant is claiming funding. The map, receipts and any written confirmation must be retained for inspection purposes.

The inspector will check that the enhancement work and items are the same as specified in the approval, meet at least one of the improving access priorities, meet the technical specifications, are in working order, are being used for the specified purpose, that the claimed costs are justified. They will also check that the location of the path/route being enhanced and any associated capital items match their location on the map.


We will send you a claim form which you must submit along with the supporting documentation by 31 August of the year following application. The evidence you provide must include detailed invoices and any other documentation in support of your claim for payment.

Links to relevant technical guidance

The following sources contain further information about path enhancement, management and technical information on capital items.

Path management: Lowland Path Construction Guide produced by Paths for All and Upland Path Management from SNH.

Item designs and structures: Countryside Access Design Guide, SNH.

Signposts and bridges: Signage Guidance and Path Bridges both by Paths for All.

Information on the provision of enhanced access for people with disabilities is available from the Fieldfare Trust .

To find your local access officer go to the Outdoor Access-Scotland website and click on the map for your local access contact. You can also find out more about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code on the website.

Technical specifications.

1. Well-drained

  • The path must stay firm and dry in all weather conditions. After heavy rain, water should drain away quickly without damaging the path. Good drainage is key to achieving this.
  • Excavate intercepting ditches to a minimum depth of 250 mm with stable slopes and establish suitable outfalls. Install filter drains of a minimum depth of 400 mm and width of 300 mm, backfill with coarse stone material and establish suitable outfall.
  • Clear out potholes of loose and soft material and backfill with compacted weather resistant material, the finished levels must prevent collection of surface water.
  • Clear out surface cross drains, clear and fill potholes and re-pack any stone pitching that has worked loose or is being undermined.
  • Keep ditches, cross drains, culverts and the entrances to culverts clear of silt, debris and vegetation twice a year, usually in March and November. At the same time check that headwalls are firm and secure.

2. Fit for purpose

  • The path's surface must be one of the types listed below and be suitable for the type and amount of use it has to support. No one path surface fits all purposes - the main point to remember is that the path must be suitable for its intended use. Keep the space around the route clear of obstructions for 3.5 m above the path and across a width of at least 2 m.
  • You must enhance your path to provide improved access provision. This can include improving drainage, clearing vegetation, filling potholes and hollows, patching etc.
  • Mowing/strimming, should ensure between 1 m and 3 m width of mown/ strimmed grass provides enhanced path provision throughout the growing season. The path must be kept free of overgrown plants, trees or grass.
  • The path surface must be one of three surface types
  • Natural path surface e.g. turf. Regular mowing will increase the density of grass, improving strength and durability.
  • Unbound surface. Use the binding properties of the path base stone to provide a smooth surface. Spreading quarry dust onto the aggregate base will increase the binding properties of the base stone and give a smooth surface suitable for many users. Unbound surfaces are susceptible to damage from water flowing over the surface, so that careful drainage is essential.
  • Sealed surface, where user numbers are higher. These surfaces use a binder, usually bitumen, to 'stick' aggregate together. They can be either a mixture of aggregate and bitumen (e.g. tarmac or bitmac) or else a layer of bitumen with chips spread onto them and rolled in (surface dressing).
  • Unstable or uneven areas should be treated by filling in any potholes as above, removing loose material or debris, grading, or adding new surface material where required for a sound surface. Larger rocks may be utilised to highlight the edges or turning points of paths.

3. Free of obstructions

  • Your route may cross boundaries such as fences, walls, hedges, watercourses or rock outcrops. If this is the case where required you must include gates, steps, bridges or culverts in order to enable the route to cross over.
  • Access provision should always take account of the needs of people with disabilities.
  • Always use gates rather than stiles, as these are more accessible. Gates must be fit for purpose. The inclusion of stiles is only acceptable where a gate or gap is not possible. The two basic types of gate in general use are the bridle (or wicket) gate and the kissing gate. Preferably use the bridle/wicket gate, as it can be used by most user types and can be constructed so that it is 'self-closing'. Wheelchair users, cyclists and horse riders cannot use kissing gates and these should only be used when bridle/wicket gates are not practicable.
  • A standard timber or steel bridle/wicket gate must have a gap width of at least 1.5 m (or where space is physically restricted a minimum width of 1.2 m) and be fitted with self closing hinges. Choose the latch to reflect the type of user and to be safe and easy to use; the use of wire, rope, baler twine etc. to secure the gate is not acceptable.
  • Bridle/wicket gates must be two-way opening, and self closing. Latches must be standard bolts or latches, preferably operable from horseback. The use of wire, twine or rope for latches is not allowed.
  • All gates for non-vehicular access and gate posts must be either timber or of galvanised steel. If you are using timber gates and posts should be of CCP pressure-treated softwood or untreated hardwood.
  • If a kissing gate is to be used, it must be of the largest possible size and be the least restrictive design. Latches should be unlockable to allow gate to open out of cage for maximum accessibility.
  • The standard minimum width of a kissing gate is 1.5 m with a minimum width of 1.2 m where space is physically restricted. The cage width/diameter must be appropriate to gate width and use.
  • Hang/clash posts must be firmly dug or driven into ground and concreted if required.
  • All types of standard gate frames are also acceptable and must be fit for purpose.
  • Where fences are cut to allow gate installation, restrain with timber or steel strainer posts.
  • If drystone walls are to be cut, new end faces of stonework must be straight and even and tight to new gate posts. Timber or steel post and rail fencing must be used to tie new gates into the existing fence /wall lines as appropriate.
  • Surfaces up to and through gates must be firm, level and well drained. New surfacing is not always required but the surface though the gate must be appropriate to the standard of path it is located on. If new surfacing is required, it must be 100 - 150 mm depth (as required) of graded granular fill (eg. Type 1, Scalpings, road planings, sand & gravel) blinded with dust to provide a smooth, even surface. You must provide suitable falls to ensure surface water drains away.
  • Where possible - for instance if there is no requirement for livestock control - use a gap as the boundary crossing. Any constructed gaps in boundaries must be a minimum of 1.5 m.
  • Stiles can only be installed as a last resort where it is not possible to provide access through a gap or gate. Stiles are impassable to wheelchairs and pushchair users and can be an insurmountable barrier to the disabled, elderly and less agile people. Stiles are also more likely than gates to cause a trip or a fall.
  • You must obtain the written agreement of the local access officer to the installation of any stiles prior to applying for the improving access option. Stiles can only be provided if there is no other alternative where a gate or gap is agreed to be impracticable.
  • If the local access officer agrees to the requirement for a stile to be built it must be built to the following specification:
  • The height rise between the ground and the first step and between steps must be the same with each height rise being no more than 300 mm;
  • Steps must be at least 200 mm wide and 900 mm long;
  • There must be no sharp edges on steps, fence rails or uprights;
  • Hand posts must be fitted; and
  • A dog gate must be fitted with a minimum gap size of 375 mm high and 300 mm wide.
  • Where watercourses are to be crossed, bridge capital items can be supported.
  • Eligible bridges include small timber bridge with a span of less than 10 m. The deck must be at least 1.2 m wide. Depending on the location and the hazard to be crossed if handrails are required they must be at a height of not less than 0.9 m. One handrail can be used where you expect low use and/or low risk or two handrails where you expect heavier use and/or greater risk.
  • The requirement for a board-walk is dictated by the ground conditions; for example a board-walk may be used on wetlands, marshes and other situations where the decking needs to be raised well above ground level. The decision on the appropriate width of a board-walk will be determined by the expected level and types of use and the width of the approach paths.
  • The minimum clear width of board-walks over 5m in length must be 1.2 m. A width of 1.7 m must be used to accommodate two-way traffic and to provide passing places on a 1.2 m wide board-walk.

4. Signposted and waymarked

  • All paths must be clearly signposted at entrance points with a fingerpost showing the word 'Path', pointing the way, and specify a destination and the distance to that destination or a significant point.
  • If the starting point of the path is not at the public road, the path must be signposted from that public road with a threshold signpost. If the path for which you are applying is a continuation of a path on a neighbouring holding, you may need to liaise with your neighbour about signposting it from the public road. Way-markers must be at places along the path that helps users to keep to the route.
  • Direction signs and fingerposts must be constructed of timber, metal or recycled plastic. The posts must be 2.1 m high and stable, ideally use timber posts 100 mm square. Text, in a plain font of a minimum text height of 30 mm must appear on both sides of the blade.
  • Waymarkers, if timber, must be at least 75 mm square, treated and routed and they can be set in concrete if required.
  • Where there is a recognised local format for signs or waymarkers this can be used with the agreement of your local access officer.

5. Regularly inspected

  • A well-planned and well-designed route needs less work. You must check your path at least four times a year and remove overgrown plants and grass when required. You must reduce the amount of weed on paths by regularly mowing verges, and drain persistent wet ground by installing filter drains or small ditches. You must strim or mow natural path surfaces and verges at least twice a year in May and August.
  • You must cut back trees and vegetation during the autumn and late spring to maintain a clear path width and height corridor.
  • You must control weed encroachment into the route corridor through cutting or selective application of herbicide in April and August.