Work has started on an off-road cycle route in East Lothian that campaigners have spent 15 years fighting to have built in what is one of the longest-running disputes in modern Scottish legal history.
The route between Gullane, which lies east of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth, and Drem will enable cyclists to avoid a busy main road.
Until now it has proved impossible to obtain permissions from landowners for the final mile of the route into Gullane, with East Lothian Council saying it lacked power to compel them to grant access.
Housebuilders CALA Homes have now agreed to fund a one-mile section of the route from Gullane and West Fenton and campaigners are urging East Lothian Council to complete the remaining three miles to Drem.
Drem-Gullane Path Campaign spokesperson Iain V Monk said: “We are delighted to finally see the diggers moving in to start work on the first section of the path.
“This is a significant milestone for our 15-year campaign, which commands widespread support across the community.
“Pedestrians and cyclists should be able to travel safely between Drem and Gullane, free from the busy and dangerous main road.
“The Drem-Gullane path will transform our coastal communities and the lives of the people who live in them. It will also attract visitors to the area, which will be good news for local shops, pubs and restaurants.
“Having declared a climate emergency last year, it’s now time for East Lothian Council to complete the remaining three miles of this family friendly route to Drem.”
Professor Chris Oliver of Spokes, the Lothian Cycling Campaign, commented: “It is fantastic that Cala Homes are working with the local community to fund the phase one start of a segregated cycle/footpath eventually running from their Gullane housing development all the way to West Fenton, a mile from Gullane.
“The route has been agreed with local landowners and is a huge important milestone in the area for safer cycling.”
The route has the support of politicians at both Westminster and Holyrood.
Kenny MacAskill, the MP for East Lothian, said: “This is great news. Safe, family-friendly active travel options are essential for both commuters and citizens alike. This new pathway will be good for the health of local residents and our environment. Campaigners, CALA and local landowners are to be commended for making it happen.
“After declaring a climate emergency seven months ago, East Lothian Council must act now and ensure the remaining sections of the path to Drem are delivered as a matter of urgency.”
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for the Lothian region, added: “It’s important that this exciting progress is celebrated. Many people have campaigned long and hard for an off-road cycle and footpath between Drem and Gullane.
“East Lothian Council’s declaration of a climate emergency is very welcome. Consequently, it’s no longer acceptable to suggest that a cycle and footpath isn’t viable and I would be pleased to work with the Council and others to find solutions to their concerns.
“The benefits of walking and cycling are well established, and the boost to local business from those on foot and bicycle will help ensure a sustainable future for all. I look forward to visiting soon!”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.