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Cairngorms National Park vehicle track appeal is thrown out

By Gavin Musgrove

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A Scottish Government Reporter has today dismissed a landowner’s appeal against an order forcing the removal of a controversial vehicle track in scenic Glen Clova in the Cairngorms National Park.

The decision ends a long-running battle over the 1.5km track which is visible for miles around and features spoil mounds up to 10 metres wide.

The landowner had launched an appeal in December, last year, against Cairngorms National Park Authority’s enforcement notice ordering him to remove the vehicle track, as it appears to be used to support field sports.

The vehicle track in Glen Clova is visible for miles around.
The vehicle track in Glen Clova is visible for miles around.

But today Allison Coard, a Reporter appointed by Scottish Ministers, upheld the enforcement notice and ordered the land to be restored “so far as is reasonably practicable” within one year.

Scottish Environment LINK Hilltracks Group, which continues to campaign for stronger public oversight of upland vehicle tracks, commended the reporter and the national park authority for their decisive action.

Hill tracks - many of them used to access grouse moors - have become one of the main issues of conflict in the strath and wider national park in recent years.

Helen Todd, who is Ramblers Scotland’s policy manager and co-convener of the LINK Hilltracks group, said: “This is a landmark result, and sadly one of very few examples of an authority feeling able to commit enough time and money to retrospectively tackle unauthorised tracks.

“This ugly track is scarring the landscape in this historic, protected glen - and we look forward to seeing the hillside restored within the coming year.

“All Scottish landowners should take note of today’s decision, and the expensive restoration job that the landowner will now need to carry out.”

Beryl Leatherland, of Scottish Wild Land Group and co-convener of the LINK Hilltracks group, said: “The case highlights the urgent need for the Scottish Government to introduce stronger controls over vehicle tracks in our hills – to boost local democracy, improve construction standards and protect precious environments from further damage.”

The Scottish Government has made hilltracks one of the top priorities in its forthcoming review of Permitted Development Rights which governs which types of developments can bypass the full planning permission process.

Currently, landowners simply need to tell authorities before building tracks which are said to support ‘agriculture or forestry’ – and full planning permission is generally not required.

Campaigners believe these tracks are often created to support shooting activities and therefore should be subject to a planning application.

Research published in 2018 by the Scottish Environment LINK Hilltracks group found that vehicle tracks continue to expand further into Scotland’s mountain landscapes, and that weak planning processes can lead to them being badly-sited and designed.

Some tracks have even been built over the top of narrow, low-impact trails and historical routes, with little chance for the public to comment in advance.

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