Invercauld Hill Tracks Quandary

Just over a year ago, February 2002, NEMT Member, Kenny Freeman, wrote to SNH about a track development in Glen Sluigan. He supplied photographic and mapped detail that he had accumulated with friends - here is the location as stated in Kenny's letter: "We have become aware that a road which ran up the eastern half of Glen Sluigan has been extended recently, in a manner which is very unsightly. Beyond the extended road, the former single footpath has become a double track to the head of Glen Slugain. Moreover two new spurs have been added from the original road in a northerly direction: one is a double Landrover track on the Meall an t-Slugain; the other is a longer spur heading up Carn na Craoibhe Seileich. The latter spur has been made up with hardcore for a substantial part of its length."

Spur to Carn na Craoibhe SeileichWell, following the 'exceedingly slow' wheels of our system, Kenny was copied in on a letter from SNH to Aberdeenshire Council, this one dated November 2002. SNH stated that: "The work which has been carried out (re. above) is largely outwith any designated sites for which SNH has a statutory responsibility. However, we are concerned at the construction of a new track and the extension of an existing track, both apparently without planning consent, and the possible impacts this may have had on the natural heritage." In the same letter SNH copies Kenny's enquiry as to whether these developments required a planning application - and if so was any such application received? SNH quotes from the draft Aberdeenshire Local Plan available on the Council's web site "Vehicle hill tracks, and extensions to them, will be refused unless they can be integrated satisfactorily into the landscape and minimise detrimental impact, such as soil erosion, on the environment including habitats and watercourses."

The next instalment came in February 2003, yes, nearly a year to the day after the original enquiry from Kenny. Here Aberdeenshire Council replied to SNH as follows: "In respect of the allegations made, Invercauld Estate should have prior to the work commencing submitted to the Planning Authority a prior notification of the development. No such notification was received." They went on to say that Council Officials intended to visit the area and: "If appropriate, Invercauld Estate will be required to submit a retrospective application for planning permission for this development."

At the time of going to press NEMT are preparing a letter for the Aberdeenshire Council stating our concern about this "over-sight" and that we intend to monitor this situation closely. This is not a complicated case and clearly everyone has something to learn. Far be it from us to claim undue credit - but could it be everyone is so busy staring at computers, composing eloquent responses to each others documents, it is up to the hill-walker to come back and tap them on the shoulder to tell them that something is physically wrong out there?!

Jennifer A Cook, April 2003

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