Politicians Urged to Curb the Spread of Hill Tracks

© Tim Hall

A coalition of ten conservation charities is calling on the Scottish Parliament to introduce stronger controls over vehicle tracks in Scotland's hills. The Scottish Parliament is set to vote this week on Planning Bill amendments by Scottish Green Party MSP Andy Wightman, designed to close loopholes that allow landowners to build many of the controversial tracks without planning permission.

Research by Scottish Environment LINK Hilltracks group has found that the tracks continue to creep further into wilder landscapes, and that planning loopholes can lead to them being badly-sited and designed. Some tracks have even been built over the top of narrow, low-impact trails and historical routes, with little chance for the public to comment in advance.

New tracks, such as this one near Achnashellach, are appearing everywhere under the planning radar  © Tim Hall
New tracks, such as this one near Achnashellach, are appearing everywhere under the planning radar
© Tim Hall

Helen Todd, co-convenor of LINK Hilltracks group and Ramblers Scotland's campaigns and policy manager, said: "There is a compelling case for stronger controls over vehicle roads in our hills – to boost local democracy, improve construction standards and protect precious environments.

"For too long, landowners have been able to expand tracks further and further into wild landscapes with little oversight from authorities or the public."

Concerned hill-goers are being encouraged to make their voices heard, by writing to MSPs using an online form (available here).

Beryl Leatherland, co-convenor of the group and also convenor of Scottish Wild Land Group said: "This week's vote offers MSPs the chance to get a grip on this damaging activity, by changing the law to protect our countryside. We urge all hillgoers to email their MSPs to raise their concerns using our quick online form."

Scottish Environmental LINK's Hilltracks group includes Ramblers Scotland, RSPB Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Wild Land Group, John Muir Trust, Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group, Cairngorms Campaign, North East Mountain Trust, Scottish Campaign for National Parks and Scottish Wild Land Group.

Mr Wightman's previous amendments to tackle the spread of hill tracks were voted down by a seven-person committee last November, but this time all 129 MSPs can vote.

The latest amendments would require full planning consent for tracks:

  • in Scotland's two national parks
  • on all land used mainly for shooting or other field sports
  • in Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • in designated battlefield sites
  • in National Scenic Areas

After decades of campaigning from environment and recreation bodies, the Scottish Government launched a new system in 2014 requiring landowners to tell authorities before building agricultural and forestry tracks – but generally full planning permission is still not required.

This post has been read 1,464 times

Return to Latest News

Support UKH

As climbers we strive to make the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKH Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate then please help us by becoming a UKH Supporter.

UKH Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support UKH Supporter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

No comments yet
Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email LinkedIn Pinterest