With the focus on the campaign to change the law regarding hill tracks (see elsewhere in this Mountain Views), NEMT and others were caught napping regarding the tracks created to facilitate the construction of the Beauly-Denny power line. These tracks are substantial as they are having to take heavy vehicles. Planning permission for the project requires that the tracks be removed with their environmental impact being a 'material consideration' in that decision. Credit is due to John Thomas, a JMT trustee with a residence in the Park, for picking up the baton as an individual when he caught wind of applications being made by landowners for consent to keep sections of the track. NEMT then came in behind John and supported him in his campaign to address the issue.
There are three different types of track: those which are required for maintenance of the line (these will remain); tracks which have been constructed on the line of older tracks (which may well be permitted but with a requirement to be reduced to their original widths); and new tracks. The latter are of the greatest concern. If these tracks are allowed to remain they will be scars adding to the visual detriment of the line and will give sporting vehicles access to a number of remoter landscapes. NEMT wrote to both to the Chair of Highland Council's Planning Committee and to the Convener Cairngorms National Park Authority regarding the importance of upholding the principle that these tracks should be removed. John Thomas also arranged for a parliamentary question to be raised regarding the principle of the removal of the tracks. The Ministerial response was, predictably, to state that the responsibility lies with Local Authorities.
Beauly-Denny tracks south of Correyairack
The line passes through three local authority areas: Stirling, Perth and Kinross and Highland. Where applications to Highland Council have fallen in the Cairngorm National Park area, the Park has called these in. NEMT has focused on applications from land owners in Perth and Kinross and Highland.
Perth and Kinross. By the time NEMT became involved, retention of some sections of the track had already been approved but we did object to an application for a stretch on an estate to the north east of Schiehallion (Kynachan). After discussions with the John Muir Trust, which owns adjacent land, the owner withdrew this application.
Cairngorms National Park. The Park called in three applications for retention within its boundaries made to Highland Council. One, in a forest area south of Laggan, was withdrawn. Two others, one on the Ben Alder estate and one parallel to the A9 on the Drumochter estate were refused consent. NEMT had been in time to object to the latter and a member of the Trust spoke against this application at the Park Planning Committee meeting in February on behalf of Mr. Thomas who could not attend. The Committee decided that the benefits were not considered to outweigh the environmental impacts.
Highland Council. In addition to the applications called in by the National Park, NEMT has objected to an application for retention of a section west of Cannich. NEMT understands that a section of track, approximately six miles long on the north side of Loch Spey and the River Spey, on land belonging to Alcan was given consent to remain some time ago. We have also received information that a stretch of track has received consent near Kiltarity at the north end of the line but it is not clear whether this was part of an older track.
The reasons given in applications to keep the tracks can, in the main, be interpreted as 'simple convenience'. While objection to each application has to be on an individual basis, the overriding argument we have presented is that the effect on the landscape was a material consideration when consent for the power line included a requirement that the tracks to be removed. This consideration has not changed and it would be a breach of trust for permission to be given to allow tracks to remain in place. NEMT intends to continue to object to applications for retention of new tracks created to facilitate the building of the power line.
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