Shock at scale of damage caused by tracks

Environmentalists trying to stop the unregulated construction of hill tracks in areas including Angus have been shocked by the problem’s scale.

Working together under Scottish Environment LINK1, the nine organisations are asking the public to submit photographs of tracks in the Scottish countryside before September 1, and have already received numerous responses.

They say that time is running out to uncover the true scale of the damage caused to Scotland’s landscapes and wildlife before they try to persuade the Government to change the law.

Helen Todd, of Ramblers Scotland and co-convener of the campaign group, said: “We have long been convinced that unregulated hill tracks needed to be brought into the planning system. Currently tracks can simply be bulldozed across the countryside almost anywhere in Scotland, and have caused huge visual and environmental damage in some of Scotland’s finest landscapes.

“Since we asked the public for help in identifying the worst examples of hill track construction, we have received many responses that show that the problem is more widespread and serious than we had feared. We are asking people to send us any examples and information they have by September 1, so we can build a thorough portfolio of evidence to persuade the Government to change planning laws.”

She added that the Scottish Government recently dropped its proposal to bring hill tracks with purported ‘agricultural or forestry purposes’ into the planning system, but said that it would keep the situation under review. Evidence gathered via the public appeal will be used to demonstrate the scale of the problem.

Beryl Leatherland, of the Scottish Wild Land Group, added: “We have seen evidence of tracks being bulldozed across some of the country’s most iconic landscapes without any care for their design or impact. Tracks have been dug deep into peat, releasing large quantities of CO2 and destroying sensitive habitats, carved straight up steep hillsides and even over the summits of several hills, leaving erosion scars that spread for years and are visible for many miles. Some of the examples we have seen amount to little more than vandalism. While hill tracks can have legitimate purposes, we think that a minimum amount of regulation is essential and should be welcomed by all concerned.”

Photos can be sent to us at http://www.scotlink.org/hilltracks/.”