‘Track Changes’, Scottish Environment LINK’s report on hill tracks
The Track Changes report presents evidence of the widespread damage caused by tracks built under Permitted Development Rights, which provide exemptions from the normal planning process. It was produced 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. There was a very large response to this appeal, and the report is based on information and photographs submitted to the campaign. We are grateful to all of those who made submissions.
While this campaign is now finished, we will continue to gather information about hill tracks and welcome further submissions through the form below.
Nine of Scotland’s leading environmental organisations are appealing for help in preventing the spread of hill tracks.
Hill tracks are some of the most visible and damaging developments in rural Scotland. They are often crudely bulldozed through highly sensitive environments, doing irreparable harm to landscapes, soils and biodiversity, and contributing to the rapid loss of land unaffected by visual intrusion (which fell by nearly one-third between 2002 and 2009).
Incredibly, these tracks can often be constructed without any planning consent having to be sought, so their design and construction are not subject to any controls or public oversight – even within parts of our National Parks. While this exemption is only meant to apply to tracks constructed for agriculture or forestry, many are instead used for commercial stalking or shooting.
For many years our organisations have been campaigning to bring the construction of hill tracks into the planning system. The Scottish Government accepted that there is ‘compelling evidence’ of the damage caused by unregulated hill tracks, but still decided not to amend the legislation. However, in 2014, the campaign successfully resulted in getting a measure of protection for our upland landscapes which ensures that local authorities must be notified in advance of any new hill track construction. This means that construction methods should be improved and at least authorities will know where new tracks are located.
We are now asking for your help to ensure that this new measure is working. If you are out walking in the Scottish hills this summer, please keep an eye out for any new tracks. If you come across such a track, please send a photo of the track plus its location and any other information you can gather to email@example.com or submit via the link below. We can then check that the planners have been informed of the track and, in that way, monitor the effectiveness of the new legislation in advance of the government’s own review in December.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Many thanks for your help!
The campaign is also supported by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
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.