Consultation response: General Permitted Development Amendment Order 2012

June 2012

The Scottish Wild Land Group (SWLG) is a small charity concerned with the protection and enhancement of Scotland’s wild land and is the oldest and only wholly volunteer-run charity of its kind. We focus on the promotion of ecologically healthy and economically productive wild land, and have long campaigned for coherent and balanced strategies for the management of Scotland’s internationally important environments. We have been involved in the campaign to limit the uncontrolled spread of hill tracks, which has been a significant contributor to the rapid and ongoing loss of land visually unaffected by development.

We believe that wild land in Scotland, comprising semi-natural environments and landscapes in which (evidence of) human activity is limited, is a very important environmental, social and economic national resource that too often is not treated as such. Many of the threats to such areas stem from the failure of planning systems to respect their true value, instead allowing development on narrow or unsound grounds. We therefore welcome this consultation and the proposed changes to the General Permitted Development Order that relate to the construction and modification of hill tracks (Classes 18, 22 and 27).

We note that Permitted Development rights were originally granted for the purposes of forestry and agriculture as part of a deliberate program of intensification of these industries. This is no longer a dominant aim of Government policy, and the persistence of these rights is now an anachronism. Furthermore, the lack of a clear definition of forestry and agriculture, together with the difficulties of enforcing a distinction between tracks intended for these and other purposes, has given the rights a de facto scope far wider than intended or justified.

We recognise the necessity of some vehicular access for the purposes of agriculture, forestry and land management, and accept that the construction of some roads and ways for these purposes is justifiable. The removal of Permitted Development rights need not hamper development where such a clear case exists. A system in which justification is presumed, however, is wholly inappropriate, and has led to widespread abuse of the Order’s provisions, causing considerable environmental and aesthetic damage to some of Scotland’s most precious and sensitive environments. That such damage is permitted without oversight of any kind is indefensible.

Given this, we strongly believe that the construction or widening of tracks should be subject to planning permission, and support the amendments to Classes 18, 22 and 27 that are proposed.