Mountaineers call on Scots councils to heal the hydro power landscape ‘scars’

Landscape 'scars' at  Glen Quoich in the eastern Cairngorms, near the Mar Lodge estate, Aberdeenshire
Landscape ‘scars’ at Glen Quoich in the eastern Cairngorms, near the Mar Lodge estate, Aberdeenshire

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has called on local authorities to ensure that ‘scars’ left on mountainsides as a result of installing hydro power schemes are ‘healed’. 

The MCofS has written to the planning directors in 10 local authorities and the national parks urging them to act to ensure the impact of hydro scheme scars on upland areas is mitigated.

The organisation, which represents Scotland’s mountaineers, has expressed concern at the significant impact on upland landscapes due to the extent and pace of development of hydro schemes.

In its letter, the MCofS recognises that any civil engineering project in a rural landscape will give rise to possibly significant short-term landscape effects and accepts that this is a temporary effect of a transition to a lower-carbon economy. 

However, the letter highlights the key concern which lies with the long-term effects, and specifically with the restoration of pipeline routes and access tracks.

In addition to Cairngorms National Park Authority and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, the letter has been sent to the following local councils: Highlands; South Ayrshire; Borders: Argyll & Bute; Aberdeenshire; Perthshire: Angus; Dumfries and Galloway, and North Ayrshire.

David Gibson, Chief Officer, Mountaineering Council, said: “We support hydro-electric generation, where generation and transmission infrastructure can be installed without unacceptable adverse impacts on landscape and ecology.”

“Almost all hydro planning applications which win consent claim that the long term impacts of pipeline and access track construction will be mitigated, but often, correctly, add the qualifier that this depends upon successful restoration. We agree – but if restoration is suboptimal we could be living with the consequences for many years to come.”

“We have therefore called on the planning authorities to confirm that they will act to ensure that developers’ keep their word and achieve optimal reinstatement of pipeline routes and blending in of narrowed vehicle tracks. 

“We believe that planning authorities must act by requiring that developers specify high quality restoration, then by monitoring completed schemes on an ongoing basis to ensure this is achieved, accompanied by a readiness to take enforcement action where it is not.”

The MCofS is a membership organisation with over 12,500 members representing hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers. The MCofS also acts for 75,000 members of the British Mountaineering Council on matters related to landscape and access in Scotland.

 

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