WE’VE driven the northwest Sutherland sections of the North Coast 500 route a couple of times now – not for box ticking reasons, just as a way to occupy time when the mid-day Orkney ferry has been cancelled and we’ve been reassigned to the later sailing.

These occasions have been an eye-opener.

The chaos caused at passing places by convoys of NC500 baggers has been noteworthy enough, but not unique. There are (for example) similar scenes of chaos between Salen and Tobermory around the sailing times of the Oban-Craignure ferry to Mull.

What struck me most on our journeys was that even when there were no conflicts with oncoming traffic the road’s construction as well as its width were more suited to 19th century occasional pony and trap traffic than constant hammering by 21st century motor traffic.

But it made me wonder – as a retired planner – how these problems come about without any mechanism to address impacts.

Had NC500 been a development needing planning permission, the planning application would have raised all sorts of questions about environmental and traffic impacts.

Planning permission for a “development” (in the planning-legal sense) of NC500 would almost certainly have been hedged around with conditions to mitigate its impact – including, probably, a developer contributions mechanism to fund upgrades to the single track sections of the road and provision of additional toilets and camper van facilities.

I am not in any way suggesting that initiatives such as NC500 should be subject to planning control … but their knock on effects, and how communities are to cope with them, maybe need a bit more thought before they are marketed in the way that NC500 has been.

Andrew McCracken

Grantown on Spey

I AGREE with Kate Forbes on her views re: community power. Many years ago at a political hustings the SNP promised to “devolve” powers to the individual communities; this did not happen, and I am stuck in a region controlled by Highland Council which is far too big to even start to understand the needs of outlying areas.

Local power (like the former town councils) should be returned to the people who know exactly what is required in their own corners. “Power to the people” used to be a mantra in the past; perhaps it is time to give that slogan and its merits serious consideration, and turn the clock back a few years.

Rosemarie Hogg