Scottish Land & Estates has urged the Scottish Government not to over-regulate Scotland’s hills and mountains.
Responding to the Government’s consultation on Permitted Development Rights for access tracks into hill ground, the membership organisation for landowners has called for simplification of the current planning approach. It recommends closer adherence to current best practice guidance, so that work on access tracks improves rather than detracts from the natural environment.
Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates’ Moorland Group, the Earl of Hopetoun, commented:
“Routes into Scotland’s hill ground have existed for centuries and are still much needed today. Hill tracks provide farmers and gamekeepers with vital access to the livestock and game they care for, they enable forestry to be managed, wildlife to be monitored, as well as recreational access for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. They enable control of wildfires, vital earlier this year, and assist mountain rescue teams. In short they are vital to rural communities and beneficial to visitors.
“Permitted Development Rights have always been 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. This is beneficial for the upland environment and it is important that Permitted Development Rights are retained in the vast majority of circumstances to enable that work to continue.
“Scottish Land & Estates recognises legitimate concerns over hill roads in the most visually sensitive areas and we want to work with Government to ensure that where there need to be planning controls, they are targeted more accurately. Currently, Permitted Development Rights are removed in a variety of circumstances and designations which do not necessarily cover the most sensitive areas. This needs to be carefully reviewed and Scottish Land & Estates will be fully involved in that process.”
Scottish Land & Estates has made the case for better promotion of existing official guidance on the Construction of tracks in the Scottish Uplands which is produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Coupled with reduced and better targeted removal of permitted development in the most sensitive environments, this would hugely reduce the current concern about Scotland’s hill tracks. Scottish Land & Estates promotes SNH’s guidance on its website and has also included it as a required Code of Conduct within its Wildlife Estates Initiative.
The attached photographs of a track on Invercauld Estate near Braemar are a perfect example of the environmental improvement that can be gained from enabling work on hill tracks.