Mountain Views wouldn't be Mountain Views if there wasn't something about hill tracks! Along with the inappropriate siting of wind farms, they remain the biggest threat to wildness.
NEMT and the other voluntary bodies involved in the campaign to bring all hill tracks [including those for forestry and agriculture purposes] under full planning law were confident that the outcome of the consultation would be favourable. Indeed, informal contacts with the Scottish Government suggested that the Minister was minded to change the law. The formal announcement that he did not intend to alter the current arrangements came, therefore, as something of a shock. He has, however, said that he will continue to keep the matter under review and is open to considering more evidence. Work has started again under the auspices of LINK to marshal yet more material. The Minister has said that he is interested in seeing examples of problems on the ground and it is hoped that this can be organised. NEMT intends to continue to help with this vital campaign. If the law is not amended, badly made and often illegal hill tracks will continue to proliferate in sensitive areas.
The estate is working on proposals to expand the areas of existing woodland. The regeneration in Feshie is impressive but there has, apparently, been a problem of deer entering the woods at night and damaging trees. It has been difficult for stalkers to get to where they need to be at night. To deal with this, new vehicle tracks are being considered and these are being included in the Environmental Impact Assessment for the expansion of the wooded areas which is currently being prepared. Normally NEMT is opposed to any new tracks in wild land believing that there are enough of these already to gain access for most purposes; proposals for new tracks tend to be for convenience rather than genuine need. By achieving major regeneration whilst retaining sporting interests, Feshie is an exemplar of what the modern highland estate should be. While we wait with interest what the actual proposals are, this may well be a special case.
Having got wind of a newly bulldozed track on Carn an Leth-choin, five miles west of Newtonmore at the head of Glen Banchor, NEMT contacted SNH. The estate had approached Highland Council to ask if planning consent was required as it was intending to go into more intensive sheep farming and wanted to build the track to facilitate rounding up the beasts. On the grounds that the stated purpose was agricultural, the Council advised that consent was not required. SNH was then approached as the proposed track was in the Monadhliath SSSI and advice was given on the route so as to prevent damage to the blanket bog. SNH has no remit to comment on visual detriment. There is not, apparently, driven grouse shooting on these hills. It does seem rather odd to go to the trouble of constructing
In the last edition, I wrote that I was out photographing engineering works on the Glen Dye estate. Despite a large amount of machinery and major earth moving work, the actual work was deemed to be maintenance by Aberdeenshire Council as it was on the line of an existing track. This loophole will remain even if the GPDO is amended, although the current proposal does attempt to exclude so-called maintenance where the width and character of the track are substantially changed. Clearly, this will be difficult to enforce. We will need to remain vigilant.
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