"Hill Protection" Petition Launched

1 March 2010

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MSPs Sarah Boyack and Peter Peacock have launched an online petition calling for new powers to prevent landowners from damaging Scotlandís mountains.

The petition to better control the construction of unregulated hill tracks is being run to support concerns from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, which is encouraging its 10,000 members to sign up.

Hill tracks are constructed for the purposes of easing vehicular traffic within upland areas of the Scottish countryside.

Currently, their construction does not require planning permission as long as the tracks are claimed to be constructed for land management purposes such as agriculture and forestry.

However, there is concern about the increasing number of such routes intruding into wild landscape and damaging the environment.

There are no restrictions of hill track constructions at different altitudes, no clear definition of maintenance such as the upgrading / change of use from footpaths, no baseline map against which to assess claimed repair as opposed to construction and no penalties if the regulations are not followed.

Sarah Boyack, Labour's Shadow Minister for the Environment, said:

"The construction, regulation and control of hill tracks within the uplands of Scotland desperately need to be addressed in order to protect our natural heritage and environment.

"The anticipated date for reviewing permitted development rights in relation to non-household development has slipped again and again.

"Now it seems unlikely that a parliamentary review of regulation of permitted development rights in relation to the construction of hill tracks will take place anytime soon, so we need to urge the Scottish government to act sooner.

"Many of my constituents, who enjoy the wild land and sense of wilderness you can get from walking and climbing, are having that sense diminished by the development of hill new tracks. I hope a demonstration of concern by people across Scotland will help persuade the government to move more quickly to review a tightening of the regulations."

Peter Peacock first took up the issue after receiving complaints from constituents about the impact of a hill road constructed on the north slopes of Beinn Bhuraich above Loch Mor in the Monadhliath Mountains.

He said: "Farmers and crofters have a legitimate need to construct, maintain and develop tracks constructed in lower lying land for their purposes of land management.

"However, little regulation of hill tracks has allowed increased development and use of these tracks within the uplands for vehicular use which could have harmful impacts on the landscape and consequently on flora and fauna."

He added: "Erosion, poor design and overuse of hill tracks cause further damage to our countryside, and this has become increasingly evident to hill walkers and mountaineers.

"With almost no control over construction or upgrading of hill tracks, the effect on the Scottish environment has been detrimental. Unless this issue is addressed our natural environment will continue to suffer under the lack of regulation of hill tracks."

The Petition, which can be accessed online at http://www.hilltrackscampaign.org.uk calls on the Scottish Executive to consider greater controls governing the development of vehicle tracks in mountainous areas, and to protect our wild landscapes for future generations.


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