George Allan

With no sign yet of the long awaited Scottish Government's review of Permitted Development Rights and hill tracks and a thankfully quiet summer for applications, this is a good time to reflect on whether anything has been achieved since Adam Watson pushed the issue up the agenda fifty years ago. The last decade has seen a flurry of activity with two major reports from Scottish Environment Link, a change in the law requiring tracks for farm and forestry work to come under the Prior Notification system and a lengthy period of systematic monitoring of track applications across Scotland co-ordinated by LINK. NEMT continues to monitor applications each week for the Grampian area. However, never mind the work- what about the outcomes?

Let's start with the bad news…

Clova horror! © George Allan

Is this all a cause for despair?

Well, not completely:

Where do we go from here?

There are opportunities for change and for fresh initiatives.

The review of Permitted Development brings another opportunity for the law to be changed to require tracks to have full planning consent. There are a number of benefits to this over the Prior Notification system. The blurring between agricultural and sporting use would be removed. Planning authorities would be unrestricted by 'permitted development' and so more likely to refuse consent on grounds such as detriment to the landscape. Their hands would also be strengthened in respect of taking enforcement action. The uncertainties as to how far the public can comment on Prior Notifications would be removed and the system would be simplified for all parties.

The licensing of grouse moors may well bring opportunities to impose restrictions on track work.

Persuading other planning authorities to follow the Cairngorms National Park Authority's lead in developing strategic approaches to tracks and to providing guidance on ATV use would be major steps forward.

An increased focus on the ATV problem could lead to innovative solutions.

Finally, a Scotland-wide plan to remove little used tracks or to reduce them to path width might seem like wishful thinking but, with incentives to land owners, could just be feasible at some point.

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