Dear Editor

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the letters from Adam Watson, Kenny Ferguson, and Kenny Freeman in the Spring 2006 edition of Mountain Views.

I welcome the concern shown by your correspondents on the problem of inappropriate hill tracks. This concern is shared by the CNPA and the point I was making in the September newsletter was that bad hill tracks followed by remedial action of some kind is less desirable than good tracks in the first place. The CNPA has demonstrated concern for this issue by taking action on the Slugain track (submission of comments raising concerns about the proposal, to the Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporters Unit, in relation to the current appeal against refusal of the application by Aberdeenshire Council), and on the Balmore to Auchtavan track (submission of strong objections to the proposal in relation to the appeal against the enforcement notice served by Aberdeenshire Council and subsequently the submission of a formal legal challenge in the Court of Session on the reporters decision to allow the appeal, quash the enforcement notice, and grant permission for the development). Also, both our interim policy (CNPA Interim Planning Policy No. 3 Vehicle Hill-Tracks), and reference in the CNPA Consultative Draft Local Plan (Policy 24: Upland Vehicular Tracks) reflect this concern.

Messrs Freeman and Ferguson are right to adduce the example of Mar Lodge, where remedial work has been successful. However, one can also adduce examples where remedial work is contra-indicated: in the case of the Balmore to Auchtavan track, advice from Scottish Natural Heritage was that further work, if not carried out sensitively, could produce further damage. In any case, my point was, and is, that the status quo- bad tracks, followed by remedial action of some kind- is less desirable than good tracks in the first place, with no remediation or restoration required. Which is the position that we as an authority would want to move towards. How we do that will be by the development and application of criteria for location and design of hill tracks: an approach arguably more sensitive to, for example, site variation than the more broad brush “zoning” proposed by Dr Watson.

Elsewhere in his letter, Dr Watson appears to assume that removing the anomaly, whereby hill tracks for sporting use are more regulated than those for agriculture and forestry, implies that none would be regulated. On the contrary, the Authority has, as part of the review of the new Planning Bill, put forward a request that all hill track proposals within a National Park should be subject to a requirement for applicants to apply for Full Planning Permission. At present some permitted development rights apply.

I hope this clarifies the position vis a vis hill tracks, and look forward to continuing to work with NEMT on this topic.

ENTRY POINT SIGNS: Also in his letter, Dr Watson refers to a sign outside Dinnet which the CNPA erected, permission for which the CNPA did not apply. True: however, as planning permission was not required it was not applied for. The permanent sign later erected did require consent. The Authority could have called in the application and granted itself consent: for transparency reasons we agreed instead to ask Aberdeenshire Council to determine the application.

Eric Baird
Vice Convenor, CNPA

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