Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners across Scotland, said today there needs to be a reality check on the debate over hill tracks.
Following the publication of a report by the environmental alliance, LINK, Tim Baynes of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The central allegation in today’s report that landowners build hill tracks without any public oversight is simply not true.
“For the majority of hill tracks planning permission is necessary. While there are some circumstances where a formal planning application is not necessary, the reality is that there are many safeguards in place, particularly in relation to protected sites. There is rigorous oversight from a range of bodies including local authorities, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. The real picture of what is actually happening in the overwhelming majority of cases needs to be taken into account.
“Routes into Scotland’s hillground have existed for centuries and they are still much needed today. The LINK report focuses on what it describes as the informal extension of permitted development rights to field sports. What the report ignores however is the integrated nature of moorland management. It is beneficial for a number of reasons to rear sheep and grouse on the same area of ground and indeed a well-managed moor will benefit a variety of other species too.
“Hill tracks provide farmers with vital, safe vehicular access to feed and check their livestock, particularly in winter when snow is on the ground. Once a route has been established it will naturally be used by others including gamekeepers, those monitoring wildlife and their habitats, recreational users such as walkers, mountain bikers and horseriders, mountain rescue teams, firefighters tackling wildfires and so on.
“Permitted Development Rights are a very useful mechanism enabling land managers to carry out timely maintenance and to improve and upgrade tracks without having to go through planning delays. While every hill road may not have been completed perfectly, there are many examples of excellent construction, well blended into the landscape.
“We support and promote SNH’s guidance “Constructed Tracks in the Scottish Uplands” and support the Scottish Government’s view that new roads are done to that standard. We have a meeting later this week with SNH and the Heather Trust aimed at developing sharing good practice events for moorland managers which will include amongst other things hill tracks construction.“