Arab landowner faces legal action after blocking access to estate

Ecovillage Network UK office at
Mon Dec 12 14:29:32 GMT 2005

Arab landowner faces legal action after blocking access to estate

AN ARAB sheikh is facing legal action after claims he ignored 
right-to-roam legislation and stopped ramblers gaining access to his 
Perthshire estate.

Maher al-Tajir, a member of the Dubai royal family, has been ordered by 
Perth and Kinross Council to remove padlocks from gates on his estate.

Mr al-Tajir is the son of Mahdi al-Tajir, a former United Arab Emirates 
ambassador to Britain, and he runs much of his father's UK businesses, 
including Highland Spring mineral water at Blackford.

His 15,000-acre Ardoch Estate, near Braco, has always been popular with 
ramblers, but a traditional route has been blocked and "Private, No 
Entry" signs erected. Braco and Greenloaning community council claims he 
has consistently breached the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and it has 
enlisted the help of the local Tory MSP Murdo Fraser.

Mr Fraser, who has visited the estate and seen the obstructions, said: 
"I wrote to the local authority after members of the community council 
contacted me on the issue of access to the Ardoch Estate.

"There is a traditional walking route on the edge of Braco village, but 
the gate now has padlocks as well as large signs stating 'Private' to 
deter access to the land."

The al-Tajir family has been targeted by criminals in the past - in 
1986, Mr al-Tajir's uncle was kidnapped and released only on payment of 
a £2.1 million ransom, while in 1990, the family's Buckinghamshire 
mansion was robbed by an armed gang who made off with antiques worth £5 
million. However, Perth and Kinross Council is insisting that the access 
law be observed.

A spokesman for the council said it was keen to negotiate with Mr 
al-Tajir, who lives at historic Keir House near Stirling, but it did not 
rule out legal action.

An official who visited the estate said: "There are sensitivities over 
privacy and shooting but, in my view, access rights apply to the route 
in question and the locked gates and signage that are now in place would 
constitute an obstruction in the terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 

"The council hope to resolve the issues through negotiation, but it may 
be that enforcement action under Section 14 of the 2003 Act is required 
in this case."

Mr Fraser said it was clear legal access was being denied, and he hoped 
the route would soon be opened up to ramblers.

He said: "I am glad that the council is trying to resolve this situation 
through negotiation. I support the council in its action and I hope the 
matter can be resolved with a positive outcome that everyone agrees on. 
Having viewed the signage and padlocked gates in question, it is clear 
that the estate is in breach of the access provisions in the Land Reform 

He added: "Under the act, Scotland's land is open and accessible to 
anybody, as long as they treat it with respect. They should not be 
unreasonably hindered in exercising this right and it is not acceptable 
that the estate can seek to prevent pedestrian access in this manner."

Helen Todd, the access campaign officer for Ramblers Scotland, said: 
"The landowner should have been aware of the land reform laws before he 
bought the property if he wanted complete privacy.

"This is a real shame, because it is a very small minority of landowners 
who ignore the law - the vast majority are very happy with the legislation.

"This would be just the second time the legislation would be tested 
legally if it goes that far, but we would rather it was negotiated out 
of the courts."

Nobody at the estate was available for comment yesterday.

Last updated: 15-Nov-05 01:16 GMT

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