Ramblers Scotland is seriously concerned at the news that the government has announced it will be keeping under review its previously stated intention to remove permitted development rights from the construction of hilltracks for agricultural or forestry purposes.
Climb almost any mountain in Scotland these days and it’s likely that your eye will be caught by the ugly scar of a line zig-zagging its way up a hillside. At other times, you may come across hideous, eroded tracks where previously a narrow stalkers’ path threaded its way unobtrusively up to a distant corrie.
New vehicular hilltracks are proliferating, pushing into areas where there has never been a bulldozer before, where you can still see landforms laid down in the Ice Age. These can be seen for miles around and are one of the reasons why the extent of land unaffected by visual intrusion in Scotland shrank from 41 per cent to 28 per cent between 2002 and 2009. Once vehicles gain access to this wild hinterland, further long-term damage can be caused by their wheels where vehicles roam over adjacent ground.
Some of these tracks may be well built, but others have simply been bulldozed through. Once built, it is extremely rare for tracks which are no longer required to be grubbed up and the ground restored.
These tracks can currently be built without planning permission if they are claimed to be for agricultural or forestry purposes, even within our National Parks (only National Scenic Areas are exempt). In reality, many are built to facilitate access to the slopes for deer stalkers and their clients.
Given the impact on landscape and the wildland qualities of an area, Ramblers Scotland believes these tracks should be brought into the planning system. That way, consultation with the planning authority and national recreation and conservation interests can take place, to the benefit of the environment and its enjoyment. If landowners think the tracks are vital and an asset to the hills, they should have nothing to fear.
If you would like to remind the government that these hilltracks should be brought under planning control, contact Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Local Government and Planning, Scottish Government, St Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG or email email@example.com.
Read the Scottish Environment Link's press release Scottish hill tracks still out of control.
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