Hydro tracks in Scotland

Tracks built as part of run-of-the-river hydro schemes require planning consent, but all too often we’re learning about tracks which are poorly constructed or not properly restored afterwards. We’re monitoring such tracks to gather evidence of the scale of the problem.


Photo by David Lintern, taken at Beinn Bhuidhe

The issue

We have campaigned for many years against the proliferation of hill tracks which have been built in fragile upland areas and cause undue damage to the environment and landscape. Such tracks are covered by permitted development rights if they’re built for agriculture or forestry purposes but we’ve been concerned their main use is often for shooting or stalking purposes. However, even tracks built under planning consent are of concern if they aren’t well-constructed, especially those related to some hydro schemes where the ground isn’t properly restored afterwards. Together with partners in LINK Hilltracks group, we’re gathering evidence of this issue by monitoring planning authority websites and inviting members to send us photos of problematic tracks.

Our position

We support hydro-electric power schemes in appropriate locations as relatively low-impact renewable sources of energy. Local run-of-the-river schemes which have been given planning consent should have limited impact on the environment or landscape around them, once the construction phase is over. However, we have become increasingly aware of tracks which haven’t been well-built or where restoration works haven’t been carried out afterwards in accordance with planning conditions set by the local authority. We are gathering evidence of such tracks and passing this on to the relevant planning authority so that enforcement action may be taken.

Government action

It’s important that the Scottish government stresses the need for developers to adhere to planning conditions and that planning authorities are monitoring developments during the construction phase and then carrying out enforcement action where required. The government needs to ensure that the recent growth in hydro schemes in remote areas doesn’t inadvertently lead to significant environmental and landscape damage across the country.

How you can help

All walkers are invited to send a photo of any hydro tracks you come across which are badly constructed, or have caused what you consider to be a significant impact on the landscape or environment. It helps if you can include an item in the photo to give scale – a person or walking poles. Please email photos with their location to hilltracks@scotlink.org or tweet a photo using the hashtag #hilltracks and we will look out for it.

Page updated June 2017