To the hills

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Despite the Scottish Government making it clear it is not currently looking to further regulate the development of hill roads across Scotland, a persistent lobby calling for such regulation still exists (Helen Todd of Ramblers Scotland, Friends of The Scotsman, 13 August).

The impression many people will glean from the Ramblers’ article is that landowners can do as they wish because such tracks do not require planning permission. This is simply not the case. Planning permission is required for all developments. However, this is effectively pre-consented through permitted development rights for private roads which are for agricultural and forestry purposes.

These rights do not extend to other areas of land management where a full planning application is required.

Even for agricultural and forestry tracks, there are various circumstances which remove the permitted development right, such as where the land carries certain designations or where an environmental impact assessment is required.

Whether permitted development rights apply or not, most track developments still require authorisation under strict construction design and management and controlled activities regulations. This is hardly a free for all.

Scottish Land & Estates believes the existing safeguards are sufficient to ensure a good balance between protecting visual amenity and ensuring farmers and foresters are not overburdened in terms of creating safe and sensible access for management purposes.

Having carried out two consultations on the matter in recent years, local government and planning minister, Derek Mackay MSP, announced last year that he would like to see a best practice approach pursued rather than greater regulation.

To this end Scottish Natural Heritage has recently re-published its excellent guidance document Constructed Tracks in the Uplands. Scottish Land & Estates is working with government to promote the guidance to landowners across Scotland and anyone thinking of developing a private road should read this guidance.

Given that all roads look raw for a while after construction, great care will be needed by those taking and submitting photographs to Link’s campaign to understand the landscaping work on site and how the road is likely to look in five or ten years’ time.

Anne Gray

Scottish Land & Estates

Eskmills Business Park

Musselburgh