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Pentland destruction

Pentland destruction


Postby weedavie » Thu Oct 04, 2018 10:46 am

Here's another entry in the list of destructive track building. The track from Bavelaw near Balerno across the Pentlands running under West Kip is justly popular with walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders. Well it's now virtually unusable.

Scottish Woodlands have been felling a number of small plantations in the area and devastation's been the result. As you come up to the dogleg a kilometre before West Kip, you encounter the mess.
pic 1 690.jpg

The track itself is invisible behind a pile of earth which will no doubt be bulldozed down to "restore" it.
pic 2 690.jpg

The damage was done by semi-tracked vehicles which crawled in and out leaving scores a metre deep.
pic 3 690.jpg

Walkers and cyclists have been walking beside the upheaval but now tracked vehicles are destroying this.
pic 4 690.jpg

The top looks like the battle of the Somme.
pic 5 690.jpg

The scope of the damage is obvious from the top of West Kip (maybe obvious from the moon.)
pic 6 690.jpg

Another track crosses the ridge between East Kip and Scald Law.
pic 7 690.jpg

Some attempt has been made to restore it. I'm not sure whether they consider it complete but this is the result.
pic 8 690.jpg

As far as I know, the farmer, too, is outraged at lost access to sheep grazing. Scottish Woodlands have a sign up which signals their environmental care; this seems entirely limited to preventing oil-spills.

The path will continue be used by walkers and cyclists, but a stretch a kilometre long will be a torture instead of a pleasure, especially after rainfall. I can't see horses using it for five years. I know the Common Riding is a bit artificial but there was a pleasure in seeing 50 or 60 horses streaming down this track.

Can you fight back. Well look here. https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/report-finds-scotland-failing-to-protect-against-damaging-hill-tracks/0018593/
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby pony23 » Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:46 pm

These people can't see beyond their bank balances and "smart" phone screens. Their website is full of phrases like "responsible" and "sustainable".
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby gaffr » Thu Oct 04, 2018 2:49 pm

All I am sure taking place within the Pentland hills Regional Park....and within the Cairngorms National park etc etc. Under the noses it would seem of the paid officials who are supposed to take care of such areas.
I have a special fondness for the Pentlands a place where as school aged youth we could take a bus from St. Andrews square and reach the hills and wander in the lofty places. I am now three hours away from all this.

Who are the folks in the Scottish Parliament who allow this stuff to take place.

If the Bulldozers have already wrecked their destruction it is too late for us to moan about this.
I also just wonder what commecial value there is in this timber? Could it be to enable a scheme to take out non native conifers to replace them with native trees? Why than would you need what looks like a sort of track network when bundles of replacement trees could be dropped off by helicopter for planting.
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby prog99 » Thu Oct 04, 2018 3:36 pm

I was also out there the other week without a camera. Have you made contact with the park (http://www.pentlandhills.org/feedback).
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby inca » Thu Oct 04, 2018 4:08 pm

prog99 wrote:I was also out there the other week without a camera. Have you made contact with the park (<span class="skimlinks-unlinked">http://www.pentlandhills.org/feedback</span>).


Hi,

Don't know if the original poster has or hasn't but I'm aware of this damage too. Spoken with the Pentland Hills Regional people already. They're aware of the situation and advise that it's Forestry Commission work; designed to facilitate access to some plantation or other. Apparently it's short to medium term stuff and there's a FC undertaking to put it back to the way it was beforehand. We'll see.
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby jmarkb » Thu Oct 04, 2018 4:15 pm

inca wrote: there's a FC undertaking to put it back to the way it was beforehand. We'll see.


Indeed! Who is responsible for policing reinstatement of such tracks and is there any meaningful enforcement mechanism?
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby weedavie » Thu Oct 04, 2018 5:52 pm

inca wrote:Don't know if the original poster has or hasn't but I'm aware of this damage too. Spoken with the Pentland Hills Regional people already. They're aware of the situation and advise that it's Forestry Commission work; designed to facilitate access to some plantation or other. Apparently it's short to medium term stuff and there's a FC undertaking to put it back to the way it was beforehand. We'll see.

I heard the restoring tale from the Pentlands as well. However this was a substantial, resilient track. To restore it to its previous condition would be expensive. They only logged a relatively small plantation. I can't see that that they'd have the profit margin to do the job needed. The Walk Highlands article I've referenced suggests campaigning for legislation with more power to enforce planning.

I'll try to find out whether they are claiming to have restored the other track on East Kip. If they are, it throws a lot of doubt on their likelihood to deliver.
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby Skyelines » Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:31 pm

From information on the Forestry Commission website it would appear that the blocks of forest belong to Eastside who have applied for and been granted a conditional felling licence to clearfell. What the conditions are, are not specified, though they could relate to extraction damage.
The applicant would be responsible for the works.

It would seem then that any conditions applied would be monitored by the FC.
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby Helen Todd » Fri Oct 05, 2018 3:19 pm

Thanks for this post and all your photos and comments, really useful. I'm co-convener of the LINK hilltracks group which is behind the campaign to bring track construction into the planning system, as reported in the Walkhighlands article referenced above. (NB: tracks related to hydro, windfarms and telecoms are already in the planning system but not tracks built for agricultural or forestry purposes, which enjoy permitted development rights and are often primarily built for other purposes, such as grouse shooting/deer stalking).

Tracks for forestry operations are generally justified but the land manager still needs to give prior notification to the planning authority before building or altering tracks - this helps to ensure good standards of construction. Having been alerted to this new track a week or two ago we raised it with Midlothian Council who are now making enquiries as to whether they were notified. Given that most tracks are in fairly remote locations, it's really important to have hillwalkers acting as eyes and ears and reporting these things, even if it turns out some tracks are bona fide.

And if anyone would like to support the campaign, there's an opportunity to finally get this issue sorted through an amendment put forward by Andy Wightman MSP to the planning bill which is currently going through parliament. We're asking people to show their MSPs that this is a matter of concern to them, which will add weight to the argument to pass the amendment.
See https://e-activist.com/page/30096/action/1

Thanks!
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby gaffr » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:49 pm

So is this what happens with these applications to screw up land within a Regional Park?...that folks who we pay to look after these matters are either not informed about what is going to take place or do they all walk about wearing plugs in their ears and blindfolds over their eyes?
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby Ltuddenham » Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:30 pm

I was out walking this route today. The track has been levelled out but certainly not returned to it's former state - it's a muddy mess about 30 feet wide for about 1 km and can't be walked upon. The previous track had a solid rocky base and was much narrower. Pentlandhills.org last update on their website dated October 2018 states that the reinstatement work was due to be finished soon so I guess that it has been completed and what I saw today was the dismal and unacceptable result.

My route (Scald Law, the Kips) also took in the new deer fence in Green Cleuch which was another nasty surprise today. I understand the reasons but the sense of wildness, no matter how illusory, has been lost in that part of the cleuch.
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby DarrenJeffrey » Mon Jan 28, 2019 12:12 pm

As someone that grew up in the shadow of these hills and spent a great deal of my childhood and indeed a fair amount of my adult years up these hills this really boils my blood.
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby jmarkb » Mon Jan 28, 2019 3:30 pm

I'd be most grateful if someone with knowledge of the planning system in Scotland could explain:

  • Which body is responsible for inspecting reinstatement works? Local council, park authorities, SEPA, SNH?
  • Do they have powers to legally enforce adequate reinstatement? If not, why not?
  • Why they are clearly doing a lousy job of this? Lack of clear responsibility? Lack of resources?
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby Helen Todd » Tue Jan 29, 2019 2:13 pm

jmarkb wrote:I'd be most grateful if someone with knowledge of the planning system in Scotland could explain:

  • Which body is responsible for inspecting reinstatement works? Local council, park authorities, SEPA, SNH?
  • Do they have powers to legally enforce adequate reinstatement? If not, why not?
  • Why they are clearly doing a lousy job of this? Lack of clear responsibility? Lack of resources?


The answer is the planning authority, Midlothian Council in this case, but they don't have the full range of tools to do so because, as I've noted above, the landowner doesn't currently need any planning permission to create a track for forestry works as it's covered by permitted development rights (although they should have notified the planning authority first and apparently didn't).

I understand (from comments on Twitter!) that the track has been re-sown with heather seeds but of course this will take time to grow given that it's now winter. In the meantime there's an avoiding path, which isn't ideal.

Cases like this show why 9 organisations* are campaigning to get tracks into the planning system so that planning applications can be submitted in advance and conditions set - and enforced. For example, given the popularity of this route, I would have expected planning conditions which made it clear that continued access for walkers, cyclists, etc, needed to be planned for, and full reinstatement to a high standard afterwards. This campaign is still running, see https://www.ramblers.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/hilltracks-campaign.aspx

* Ramblers Scotland, RSPB, National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Wild Land Group, North East Mountain Trust, Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group, Cairngorms Campaign, Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, Scottish Campaign for National Parks - plus we're supported by Mountaineering Scotland and John Muir Trust
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Re: Pentland destruction

Postby jmarkb » Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:56 pm

Hi Helen, many thanks for the clear explanation!

Helen Todd wrote:Cases like this show why 9 organisations* are campaigning to get tracks into the planning system so that planning applications can be submitted in advance and conditions set - and enforced.


Is it obvious that getting tracks covered by the planning system will really help in practice? The reinstatement of tracks etc. in the myriad micro-hydro schemes appears to be similarly poorly policed and enforced, despite them (mostly) requiring a planning application.
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