Poorly constructed hilltracks which cause landscape and environmental damage have been a concern to environmental groups for decades, especially as no planning permission is required if they are for agricultural or forestry purposes.
Scottish Environment LINK’s Track Changes report gives evidence of the widespread damage caused by tracks built under Permitted Development Rights, which provide exemptions from the normal planning process. It was produced as part of our campaign to persuade the Scottish Government to remove these rights and so enable proper public scrutiny of any future tracks, and follows a public appeal by nine of Scotland’s leading environmental organisations.
Following the campaign, from December 2014 all landowners have had to give prior notification to local authorities of their intention to construct new hill tracks or carry out improvements of existing tracks. They still don’t need to apply for full planning permission so tracks can’t be refused permission, but it’s hoped that the need for prior notification will improve construction standards. The LINK Hilltracks group has been monitoring local authority planning websites looking for new proposals and expressing concerns or giving comments on specific tracks. In addition, we have participated as stakeholders in a government review of the prior notification process and are awaiting the report of that review.
We now need help in assessing whether this prior notification process is effective in improving the standard of tracks and their impact on the environment and landscape. We also need to know if there are still new tracks appearing which have not gone through any planning process at all.
How can you help? If you come across a new track when you are out in the hills this summer, please send us a photo of the track and an indication of its precise location. If you could put something into your photos to give scale [person, backpack, walking poles etc] that would be great, and if you know the estate or landowner where the track is, please tell us. We will then check the status of these tracks with local authorities. Please send a photo of the track plus its location and any other information you can gather to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit via the link below.
Secondly, we are putting together a team of ‘trackers’ to monitor local authority weekly planning lists for any new track notifications. If you would like to join the team, please email Beryl Leatherland on email@example.com. This shouldn’t be a lengthy or onerous task, but it is likely you will be assigned a specific local authority to monitor regularly. You would be given full instructions on how to do this.
The campaign is also supported by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the John Muir Trust.
In addition to donations from the organisations participating in this project, funding has been generously provided by the Scottish Environment LINK Discretionary Project Fund and by a grant from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust.