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Rule changes for farm and forestry tracks

As of mid-December 2014 any new work to create or upgrade farm and forestry tracks requires a notification and description of the intended works to be submitted to the local planning authority prior to any onsite work.  These changes are brought about by the introduction of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 2014.

In essence, the creation or upgrading (alteration to road materials and/or surface area) of farming and forestry tracks is still “permitted development” but is now subject to the following conditions:

  • the developer must apply, before beginning works, to the planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval is required in respect of the design, manner of construction or route of the private way;
  • the application is to be accompanied by a description of the proposed development, including the proposed design and manner of construction, details of the materials to be used and a plan indicating the route; and any fee required to be paid  (Currently there is no fee payable);

The planning authority has 28 days to respond to the developer.  If the planning authority does not reply within this timescale, then approval to go ahead can be assumed and work can commence.

The local authority can, within the 28 day period, write to the developer confirming that it determines prior approval is not required and work can therefore go ahead as long as it conforms to the description submitted in the notification to the local authority. 

The local authority can, within the 28 day period, write to confirm that its approval is required and it may in this event require further details to be submitted.  If the authority determines that prior approval is required, then it is likely that it wishes to see some amendments to the line of the route or materials to be used, but if these can be accommodated then work can commence without the need for a full planning application.

It should also be noted that all works carried out under the process should be completed within a 3 year period from approval.

The Government is producing guidance for local authorities on the implementation of this measure at the moment.  Some recognition has been given to the argument that forestry routes are already subject to extensive approval process.  As such the Government is attempting to see where duplication within approval processes can be avoided and it will deal with this in the guidance document. 

Where construction commenced before 15 December 2014, there is generally no need to seek retrospective prior approval.

Please also note that tracks developed for any other purpose require a full planning application to be submitted to the local planning authority.

The SNH publication “Constructed tracks in the Scottish Uplands 2013” will continue to be the best practice manual for all hill tracks. The Government intends to review progress of the new regulation in December 2015.

More details on the planning process for farm and forestry tracks can be found on our website –  Or, speak to Anne Gray or Tim Baynes at Head Office.

Scottish Land & Estates is interested to hear from members engaging with this new process.  We do not expect that prior approval will be required in the majority of cases and we are keen to monitor whether this is the experience of our members.  Please again contact Anne or Tim with any feedback.


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