© G Allan
Campaigns come and campaigns go but NEMT is doomed to be forever associated with tracks which scar Scotland's hills!
A shocker: this track (see photo) to the west of the South Esk in Clova, has been gouged into the hillside with no drainage culverts. NEMT alerted the National Park. Unfortunately their investigations found that it had been created before the Prior Notification system came in.
The dozen or so hard working trackers who check websites across Scotland will continue their work, at least until LINK's report is published in the spring. Whether 'tracking' is sustainable in the long term is uncertain. As well as providing evidence for the report, it has ensured that objections and comments could be made on a wide range of applications for tracks; it has also drawn NEMT's attention, and the attention of other organisations involved, to associated issues such as proposals for hydro schemes. It would be a pity if this monitoring ceased but the commitment involved is significant. The report will explore the improvements which the Prior Notification system has brought and highlight the continuing problems with the system, along with poor practice on the ground. LINK is now planning a campaign of action to follow the report's publication.
The purpose of tracking has been to gather evidence regarding the new system but has it had any benefits beyond that? NEMT, Ramblers Scotland and the Scottish Wild Land Group have comment or objected to a number of applications and there are instances where, following this:
It is not possible to say how far we have influenced these decisions but it is reasonable to assume that our comments carried weighted. Objections and comments must also have had the effect of keeping the issues to the fore in planners' minds. Where the campaign has clearly scored has been drawing to planning authorities' attention to instances where tracks have been created or altered without notification and this has led to investigations and, in some instances, enforcement action.
The campaign has enjoyed close links with the Park which is to be saluted for pushing the tracks issue further up its agenda. The December meeting of the Park's Planning Committee considered a report which describes the enforcement action being undertaken regarding illegal tracks and its current investigations into a number of potentially unauthorised ones. Hopefully this will lead to a sea change, with landowners thinking twice before flouting the law. The report also reiterated the policy presumption against the construction of any more new tracks in open moorland. The Park is considering using aerial mapping to establish the baseline for what tracks already exist. It also hopes to set up an online system to make it easy for members of the public to report concerns.
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