Scotland must better protect its scenic areas like England, says NTS

Scotland’s areas of scenic beauty are more at risk from development than similar sites in England and Wales, the country’s leading conservation charity has claimed.

Places such as Glencoe suffer from less protection in the planning process when compared to those in other home nations, analysis by National Trust for Scotland found.

Weaker protections also surround battlefields, such as Culloden and Bannockburn, when compared to similar historic sites in England and Wales, the trust said.

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Glencoe is owned by National Trust for Scotland with the charity urging the Scottish Government to strengthen protection of such scenic areas in reforms to the planning system. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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NTS has called on the Scottish Government to toughen up its proposed National Planning Framework, which will influence decision making across the country, in order to better protect the country’s natural and historic assets.

It has suggested a number of improvements to the Scottish Government as part of a lengthy consultation into proposed changes of the planning system. It is also calling for a greater appreciation of beauty to be reflected in policy, as well as better protection for wild land from wind farm developers.

Diarmid Hearns, head of Public Policy for the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Scotland is globally renowned for the beauty of our landscapes and our iconic buildings. It is our natural and cultural assets that help make Scotland, and it is our planning system that will determine whether we develop these in a positive or negative way.

“The new National Planning Framework is our opportunity to ensure that the places that matter to us and make Scotland what it is are protected now and for future generations.

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“Overall, we find that Scotland is currently behind England when it comes to protections for our natural and cultural assets, on a level with Wales, and ahead of Northern Ireland.

“This can be remedied with a few small changes and we hope the Scottish Government will be guided by our concerns and strengthen the framework for the benefit of everyone who loves our landscapes and historic places.

“As the requirement to deliver more resilient, nature-positive places is brought into ever sharper focus by events at home and abroad, the Trust will also be calling for areas of wild land to be better protected from onshore wind developments, and a greater appreciation of the role beauty plays in creating sustainable places within its own response to the Scottish Government’s consultation.”

Scotland has 40 National Scenic Areas, including Glencoe, of which 14,000 acres is owned by the trust, and landscapes such as Skye Cuillins, Assynt and Coigach and the Small Isles.

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NTS has long called for better protection for battlefields given a number of developments on land within the historic boundary of Culloden, of which the charity owns around a third. The trust said developments on English battlefields were allowed only in “wholly exceptional circumstances” with management plans for some allowing sympathetic management of these sites.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The draft National Planning Framework recognises the great value of Scotland’s natural and cultural assets and its distinctive places, and has been the subject of extensive engagement and a detailed public consultation since last November, in parallel with Scottish Parliament scrutiny.

“We are pleased with the wide interest shown from across society and will carefully consider the broad range of views shared with us before finalising NPF4 for Scottish Parliament approval.”

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