Developments with regard to the LINK Hill Tracks Campaign are gathering speed and by the time Mountain Views is printed things will have moved on. Publication of the report on how the Prior Notification system for agricultural and forestry tracks are operating in practice was postponed to ensure that it did not become lost in the holiday period: it is being published in September.
On the basis of the report's findings, LINK is working to bring forward amendments to the Planning (Scotland) Bill which is moving to Stage 2 in the parliamentary process after Holyrood's recess. These amendments will be aimed at changing the law to require that tracks, which are so visually intrusive in upland areas and which are Permitted Development, are subject to full planning consent. The findings in the LINK report will also be used to encourage applicants to submit better quality applications and to urge planning authorities to ensure best practice in construction and restoration on the ground.
Visitors to various glens, particularly in the west, will have seen the evidence of very poor construction methods and restoration of the tracks for small scale hydro. To put it bluntly, some previously unspoilt glens are now a real mess. NEMT is taking a greater interest in this issue which is leading a number of environmental organisations to question their previously held positions of not objecting to small scale hydro.
There is currently widespread public concern about proposals for seven schemes in Glen Etive. NEMT has considered these and decided not to object or comment on four of them, all within existing forest areas. In its submissions to Highland Council regarding the other three, all of which are to the east of the river and in Wild Land and National Scenic Areas, NEMT has stressed that it is the visual impact of the tracks which is of greatest concern:
The photos below show the restored track on Beinn a' Bhuird. This track, originally built in 1966, was restored very carefully and at great expense by NTS - the work was begun in 1997 and the fact that it is still visible shows why we campaign against hilltrack construction in our mountains. In such a sensitive environment, the damage, once done, is very difficult to undo. It will be interesting to see how long the beautifully constructed replacement path withstands the onslaught of the mountain bikers with whom we walkers now share the high mountain environment ...
Beinn a Bhuird, old ski track, photographed 2018 © Ken Thomson
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