Vehicle Hill Tracks

A year ago, I wrote about vehicle hill tracks. In the last edition of Mountain Views, we showed a copy of our reply to the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s draft planning policy on Vehicle Hill Tracks.

Well, events have continued to move on. Back in 2003 following numerous letters of objection from both NEMT and our individual members to Aberdeenshire Council, MPs and MSPs, Invercauld Estate did apply for retrospective planning permission four days before the Cairngorms National Park planning powers came into effect. Again, NEMT members and the trust itself have written numerous letters of objection to this retrospective application. Our perseverance has paid off.

The issue got six minutes on Landward just before Christmas. Although BBC Scotland weren’t allowed to film in the glen itself, our team were able to provide photographs to demonstrate what had happened over the last few years.

On Monday 20th December 2004, there was a site meeting to take the matter further. This was led by SNH and two NEMT Members were invited to attend. The minutes of this meeting are too long for this article. In summary, the following was agreed:

Pessimists will see this as leading to a probable climb down. I prefer a more optimistic view. There is precedence for full removal of such tracks where retrospective planning permission is ultimately refused. Even if the track remains, the site will have to be returned to an acceptable standard and the costs of doing this will act as a powerful disincentive to estates who are thinking of putting in crudely bulldozed tracks in the future. Working together on improved management plans for such areas provides a huge opportunity to build a partnership to get this right in the future.

Most importantly, the discussion moves the whole issue of planning into centre stage. It cannot be fudged over any more. Aberdeenshire Council have accepted that more specific guidance needs to be developed, particularly for evolved tracks. The Park Authority should now start to follow this and other leads. In this context, the work by the National Trust for Scotland on vehicle track removal on the neighbouring Mar Lodge Estate can be seen as setting a standard for the rest of the Park to apply.

Subsequent discussions within NEMT have crystallised our views as follows:

I started by noting that a lot is happening on this subject. I’m sure that it will feature highly in the next edition of Mountain Views. We need help in campaigning on this issue. Please let us know if you would like to help. I would like to finish this piece by thanking the two Kenny’s, Phil and Alisdair whose persistence in writing letters and never giving up has been the basis for the success so far.

Thank you very much.

David Windle

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