Green MSP, Andy Wightman has tabled an amendment to a planning bill in an attempt to end a long-term dispute over the creation of hunting tracks in Scotland without the need of planning permission.
Hunting tracks, also known as “hilltracks” have been a part of the Scottish landscape for centuries but have – with the dawn of modern construction machinery – become increasingly prevalent and destructive to wilderness in Scotland.
Scottish Environment LINK, a charity dedicated to being the “voice of Scotland’s environment community” condemn the Hilltracks as “poorly constructed” and the “cause [of] landscape and environmental damage”.
Scottish Environment LINK alongside Ramblers Scotland, RSPB, the National Trust for Scotland and Mountaineering Scotland are campaigning for such tracks to need planning permission before construction.
In a September 2018 report on the matter, Scottish Environment LINK focused on a number of issues that current planning laws concerning hunting tracks failed to address. The main points being:
- Off-road constructed vehicle tracks (often referred to as “hilltracks”) can ease access for land management purposes but can also have major visual and environmental impacts, particularly on the wilder landscapes for which Scotland is so highly-regarded.
- Poorly-sited and constructed tracks have been a concern to conservation organisations and outdoor enthusiasts for many years. This is reflected in decades of campaigning, culminating in the publication by Scottish Environment LINK in 2013 of a major report “Track Changes”.
- Hilltracks continue to be built and the cumulative impact of constructed tracks on our landscapes is increasing given the number of tracks that are also now being built in connection with hydro power schemes, wind farms and other developments.
- For historic reasons, tracks built for agricultural or forestry purposes have benefitted from Permitted Development Rights and this continues to be the case, in spite of the advent of heavy machinery and its capability to re-engineer hillsides and important landforms. This has left the countryside vulnerable to significant damage in the absence of tighter planning control.
In his amendment, MSP Andy Wightman echoes LINK’s points noting that the “[damage] large swathes of our natural scenic landscape” due to a lack of regulation needed to be corrected.
Specifically, Wightman’s amendment calls for full planning consent for tracks in national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, designated battlefield sites, National Scenic Areas and on all land used for field sports (hunting).