An Active Travel Route between Hopeman and Lossiemouth which would provide a safe route for people walking, cycling and wheeling has been a dream of the local community for almost two decades. It would connect the Laich of Moray coastal communities of Burghead, Cummingston, Hopeman, Duffus and Covesea to their local services, including shops, veterinary practice, health centre, and the secondary school in Lossiemouth. There is no public transport service connecting these communities, and no pavement or safe accessible path between Covesea and Lossiemouth with the result that visitors to Silver Sands Holiday Park and local people are often seen walking on the verge of the B9040 – a national speed limit road, which has poor sightlines between the park and the town. The optimal route for the proposed Active Travel Route would run alongside or close to the B9040.
A 2007 Moray Council project for ‘Tackling the School Run’ resulted in upgrades to the path network between Burghead, Cummingston, Hopeman and Duffus. It delivered four miles of almost completely traffic-free walking, cycling and wheeling infrastructure between these communities; safe for families, and unaccompanied children, and offering a pleasant experience for all. The remaining six miles of the route between Hopeman and Lossiemouth High School was later removed from the scope of the project as this section was more convoluted, with various route options to consider, and more landowner negotiation required.
The project was revived in 2013, following a community consultation which saw the active travel route between Hopeman and Lossiemouth score highest in the long term plans proposed to Lossiemouth High School students; and second highest priority, after the East Beach Bridge, in a survey completed by residents of the town. The Lossiemouth Community Development Trust (LCDT) set up a steering group, which later became Laich of Moray Active Travel Routes (LoMATR), and an updated feasibility study was carried out in 2018, reassessing the route options and engaging stakeholders.
The project was supported by Sustrans, which provided funding for surveys and initial designs and would have granted up to seventy percent of the detailed design and construction costs provided landowner agreement could be secured. However, despite the project team’s best efforts, including a willingness to compromise on the route to meet landowner concerns, negotiations with some of the landowners have reached an impasse and legal intervention now appears to be the only way forward. This action would require Compulsory Purchase (or lease) of the land, which can only be achieved by Moray Council.
Heldon & Laich Independent Councillor John Cowe presented the appeal for Moray Council’s support to the Economic Development and Infrastructure Services Committee on Tuesday 2nd May. He explained that Laich of Moray Active Travel Routes would continue to manage the project and had secured funding from Sustrans’ Places for Everyone programme, covering one hundred percent of the feasibility and design stages of the project, and seventy percent of the construction costs, with the group planning to seek the required match funding from other sources. Unfortunately, Councillor Cowe’s appeal was rejected by the committee: concerns were expressed regarding lack of resource in Moray Council and potential financial exposure.
Moray Council initiated the project in 2006, and listed the route as part of the Aspirational Network in their Active Travel Strategy 2016 – 2021. The council has the ambitious target of increasing the active travel network infrastructure by five percent over the next five years; the rejection of support for this community-lead project is therefore astounding.
“There is no pavement alongside the B9040 between Lossiemouth and Covesea which means that anyone pushing a pram or those using wheelchairs or mobility scooters have to use the road. It can only be a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed. This planned active travel route would enable anyone heading east to Lossiemouth to walk, cycle, or wheel in safety. The Council must reconsider its position and support this project.”
says Malcolm Campbell of Laich of Moray Active Travel Routes.
Lossiemouth Community Development Trust and Laich of Moray Active Travel Routes will not be disheartened, however, as the Peffery Way in the Highlands faced similar struggles, and have gone on to achieve a Path Order helping to see their active travel route connecting Strathpeffer and Dingwall nearing completion.
A greater level of community involvement will be required in order to see the project completed, so Lossiemouth Community Council, LCDT and LoMATR are inviting all those interested in connecting these communities to the Community Coffee Morning being held on Saturday 27th January 2024 at Lossiemouth Town Hall.