Officials yesterday approved a controversial extension to a hill track in the Cairngorms National Park despite opposition from campaigners – and six members of the committee.
The existing track at Balavil House in Kingussie, connecting Allt Ruighe na Riog to the River Dulnain, is used by workers on the estate to access remote parts of the vast wildland, with proposals to extend the already existing track approved by the committee following a nine to three vote in favour of approval.
Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA) head of planning Gavin Miles yesterday told the committee: “Our view is that in the long term, if the track is constructed well its impacts are minimised, including the conditions to do more than the estate are suggesting, then that will have less impact in the long run than the current state of play.
“Given that there is no alternative in the estate than using the track, the best solution it seems is to manage the area and control it.”
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The committee heard from three opponents, with George Allan of the North East Mountain Trust, Tessa Jones of the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group (BSCG) and local man Dave Morris delivering evidence to committee members as to why they believed the application should be rejected.
Speaking after the determination, the trio expressed their disappointment but vowed to continue the fight for their cause.
Mr Morris said: “I’m very encouraged that six members of the committee understood our position, so I offer those six members my congratulations but I think the committee has been misled by the advice received from the officers.”
Mr Allan added: “They have got to start being realistic and start by reacting rather than simply waiting for estates to come forward with proposals for hill tracks or waiting for the damage caused by ATV’s (all-terrain vehicles) and then holding their hands up.
“The park has got to develop a robust strategy that is detailed in regards to its attitude towards hill tracks across the whole of the park.
“We will continue to pressurise the park to get a grip on the whole issue to stop this reaction to events, and create the constant which decisions can be made to protect wildlands.”
Tessa Jones of the BSCG said: “This will be a prominent intrusion into our landscape and it is certainly not a solution for the current situation.
“As a group, we are dismayed that the CNPA is facilitating the erosion of Scotland’s precious wild land.”
Gary Culpan, general manager of Balavil Estate, said: “We are very pleased with the way things went today because this is an amenity, not just for the estate, but for the local community too. It will give better access to the hill, which just isn’t there, and we will all be able to benefit from it.”