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Tackling uncontrolled hill tracks and roads

As the voice of Scotlandís mountain lovers and mountaineers, we stand up against insensitive development proposals that have a negative impact on Scottish mountain landscapes. 

Poorly constructed hill tracks and roads are one of our campaign priorities, and in a recent survey of our 13000 members, it was considered their greatest concern for protecting Scotland's mountains.

What's the problem?

Mountaineering Scotland is not opposed to well-constructed tracks where they are necessary for land management operations. They help us get into the hills and following a well-maintained stalking track through remote country can be a delight. But in recent years there has been of sharp rise in the number of hill tracks constructed across Scotland... 

Many of these are bulldozed through some of our most valued wild land with little regard for build-quality, appearance or effective drainage, causing scars that can be seen for miles around. There are two aspects to this problem and in each we have a different campaigning approach:

Farming and forestry roads

Landowners are not currently required to have planning permission for hill tracks associated with agriculture and forestry. We want this to change so that ecology and visual impact is prioritised and conditions on materials and construction can be set.

Through campaigning pressure, the law was changed in 2014 to provide more planning supervision of hill tracks by asking landowners or developers to give prior notification to local planning authorities of planned hill tracks.

However planning authorities have only six weeks to respond to developers before assumed permission is given. 

In practice, this means many hill tracks go ahead due to the planning teamís lack of time to respond.

What we want:

  • We want the Scottish government to strengthen the planning scrutiny and protection around hill track construction, requiring landowners and developers to apply for full planning permission.

Hydro track disruption in Glen Quoich

Hydro and wind farm roads and scars

Unlike other hill tracks, access roads and other civil engineering works associated with hydro schemes or wind farms are subject to planning permission. The issue here is ensuring planners set conditions to ensure the quality of the work done, monitor the results and take enforcement action when it is done poorly. 

We recognise that any renewable energy project in a rural landscape will give rise to possibly significant short-term landscape effects and accept that this is a temporary effect of a transition to a lower-carbon economy. 

However our key concern is the long-term effects, especially the importance of ground restoration around pipeline and access routes after the construction phase is over.  Hydro tracks especially give rise to concern with intake maintenance often resulting in permanent tracks wider than is actually required for the task.

What we want:

  • We believe planning authorities must require that developers specify high quality restoration conditions.  The legacy of poorly restored hydro tracks has prompted us to produce a statement outlining what we would want to see planners recommend and enforce: hydropower position statement

How you can get involved

Dramatic ground works at Glen Dye

Support LINK's Hilltracks campaign

We support the Scottish Environment LINK Hilltracks campaign which has been monitoring local authority planning websites looking for prior notification of new hill tracks and raising concerns or giving comments on specific tracks.

They are now looking for your help in assessing whether there has been an improvement in the standard of tracks and their impact on the environment and landscape. They also wants to know if there are still new tracks appearing which have not gone through any planning process at all.

What to do:

Beinn Bhuidhe hydro scheme scars

Help heal the scars of engineering projects

We need your help to keep an eye on the quality of mitigation and restoration work done by hydro and wind farm contractors after their energy projects are complete.

We urge local authorities and Scottish national parks to use their powers to ensure the impact of hydro scheme scars on upland areas is mitigated by developers. However, after recent correspondence with planning authorities it is clear that some lack capacity to monitor and follow up these issues.

What to do:

  • Please share with us examples of the landscape scars you observe while out walking so we can raise them with the relevant planning authorities and ensure enforcement action takes place. You can email to info@mountaineering.scot or post on our Facebook or Twitter @Mountain_Scot #hydrotrackscars

When we were informed by a member that reinstatement work had still not been carried out after the completion of the hydro scheme project on Beinn Bhuidhe near Inveraray, we contacted the planners at Argyll and Bute Council. They were grateful for the intelligence and issued an enforcement notice to the developers.

Impact of development at Ben Bhuidhe