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Newtonhill Woodland/ Landfill Car Park Closed to Public

12th September 2013

Photograph of Newtonhill Woodland/ Landfill Car Park Closed to Public

The Highland Council is advising people that the car park immediately adjoining the former landfill site at Newtonhill in Caithness is to be closed in the interests of public safety, with visitors to be directed to the nearby Newtonhill Croft Community Woodland.

The landfill was operated by the former Caithness County and District Councils from the mid 1960s until its closure in the mid 1970s and was managed as a community woodland between 1996 and 2008, when the site was closed for reasons of public safety, due to the presence of substances in the soils including heavy metals, arsenic and asbestos.

Although the car park, approximately 2 km from the town centre, lies outwith the former landfill and has remained open to date, the provision of fencing and signage has proved insufficient to deter repeated and determined vandalism and members of the public continue to take access to the former landfill for recreational purposes, despite possible health risks. Whilst the individuals responsible for the vandalism are entering the area knowingly and therefore at their own risk, those who take access afterwards may be less well informed, for example unaccompanied children who may enter through cuts in the fence.

Full closure of the car park will provide a more significant deterrent to those arriving by car. All car park furniture will be removed and heavy duty vandal-proof information panels will be erected at the roadside, making clear beyond reasonable doubt that the site is closed to the public and explaining the reasons why. These panels will also indicate the location of the new community woodland further along the road at Newtonhill Croft, so helping unfamiliar visitors to find this alternative location for recreation.

The Council cannot reasonably exclude determined individuals on foot, but those taking access over the gate / barriers will do so at their own risk and criminal damage to fences and signs will be reported to the police.

Since the closure of the woodland at the former landfill, a new community woodland has been established nearby at Newtonhill Croft. This new site is owned by Forestry Commission Scotland and managed with the help of the Friends of Newtonhill Woodland community group, who are also assisted by the Highland Council Countryside Rangers.

The new site has parking facilities, a path network, picnic tables, benches and a pond with dipping platform.

Although the trees are still establishing, this site is an excellent community facility and open to all responsible access takers.

The Friends of Newtonhill are currently seeking funding to renovate the old croft house which will be used as a base for visiting groups and educational purposes. Tannach & District Community Council were contacted as part of the Councils local consultation in this matter and a letter has been sent confirming the action is now being taken.