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MISSING MOUNTAINS

29-05-2002

 MISSING MOUNTAINS :WHY THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE ARE WRONG ON THE PROPOSALS FOR THE INTERNATIONALLY IMPORTANT CAIRNGORMS NATIONAL PARK.


The publication in late May by the Scottish Executive of the Draft Designation Order for the Cairngorms National Park was met with considerable confusion and condemnation over its contents.


The Cairngorms Campaign have pressed for years for National Park designation and, apart from the provisions on planning, largely welcomed the previous official proposals for the National Park. In May the Campaign were among the first to highlight the shortcomings of the Executive's proposals.


Here we set out a summary of what is wrong.


The Proposed Boundary.

The Scottish Executive proposal ignores the will of the people of Scotland and Britain. A very expensive consultation exercise was conducted by its appointed reporter and advisor Scottish Natural Heritage. The Executive have controversially abandoned the SNH conclusions on the appropriate area, inexplicably cutting it almost in half. So can future consultations be trusted?


It goes against the National Parks Act for Scotland which was drawn up to make National Parks places of coherent identity. That was largely in line with the thoughts of one our greatest Scots, John Muir, who emigrated to USA and started the world-wide National Parks movement. John Muir believed in the value of the wilderness experience but the Scottish Executive proposals have reduced the greatest opportunity in the UK by half.


The National Park area boundary, instead of encircling and fully covering the wildest Cairngorms mountains, actually splits in half key remote summits, an extraordinary abandonment of ecological and wild land principles on which National Parks world-wide are founded.


It wipes out the expectations of numerous local communities, businesses and individuals who through involvement in the Cairngorms Partnership regard themselves as part of the Cairngorms.


It gives (via the A9) undue and questionable tourist and commercial advantage to Aviemore based commercial and land-owning speculative businesses. Key historic Cairngorm communities like Braemar, Tomintoul, Blair Atholl, Aboyne and Dalwhinnie will suffer when business is filtered into Glenmore causing undue pressure on its woodlands and adjacent hills. Meanwhile other opportunities to spread the load and afford sustainable tourism benefits to struggling villages beyond Aviemore are lost.


Planning provisions.

The Draft Designation Order sets out unworkable provisions for planning. Neither the current or previous proposals are workable options for planning within the Park since they would leave

The public confused about where responsibility lies;

Inoperable arrangements for the National Park Authority to implement;

The area subject to speculators taking advantage of separate strategic plans setting out official targets for housing development.


In the Loch Lomond & Trossachs NP, responsibility for planning will lie mainly with the National Park Authority, and no viable explanation has ever been made as to why the Cairngorms, which will also be subject to intense development pressures, will not have similar provisions.


The proposed Cairngorms planning arrangements, which leave strategic planning and development control largely in the hands of Local Authorities, could also undermine the purposes of the National Park. Experience has shown that, for a National Park to be successful, strategic planning and development control must be the responsibility of the National Park Authority (NPA).


It was for this reason that, 40 years after their establishment, the remaining eight out of ten Parks in England and Wales were given independent planning authority, as the Lake District and Peak District had been from the outset. This change was made after extensive analysis revealed the mistake of not adopting this approach (Fit for the Future, Countryside Commission, 1991). It thus seems a glaring inconsistency to confer planning powers in the case of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs but to withhold them from the Cairngorms National Park.


In addition, international convention dictates that for designation of such landscapes as the Cairngorms as a World Heritage Site, integrated land management arrangements have to be in place. Under the Executive proposals with planning responsibilities being split between the NPA and local authorities, any possibility however strong or faint, of WHS designation is precluded.


Recent experience in Badenoch and Strathspey in particular has already demonstrated that extensive housing developments are being planned in line with the Highland Council Structure Plan of 2001 which provides for a 25% increase in the Badenoch & Strathspey housing stock by 2017 at the expense of important natural heritage & landscape considerations and more sustainable local community ambitions.


What happens next.

Following the closing date (August 22nd) for responses to the public consultation, the Scottish Executive will about a month later submit the final designation order for consideration by a Committee of the Scottish Parliament, probably Rural Development.


The Committee will then only be allowed to either pass or refuse the Order, not to amend it. This lack of opportunity for debating in Parliament the details of each new National Park has been identified as a weakness in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000.


Nevertheless there is the opportunity for MSPs to make their views known to the Scottish Executive. The Cairngorms Campaign is asking Members of the Rural Development Committee to examine the position prior to formal submission by the Executive of the finalised Order for their approval.


What can be done.

Full details of the Draft Designation Order can be viewed on the Scottish Executive website www.scotland.gov.uk. Paper copies can be obtained from:


National Parks Team

Scottish Executive

Area1-J South

Victoria Quay

Edinburgh

EH6 6QQ

Telephone 0131-244 1562

Fax 0131-244 4071

E-mail npb@scotland.gov.uk


The Cairngorms Campaign urges anyone who is concerned about the future of the Cairngorms to at least write or email their concerns however brief to the above address BEFORE AUGUST 22ND 2002.


We also urge Scottish residents to write to their Members of the Scottish Parliament with their views. Simply write to whoever your MSP is at :-

The Scottish Parliament, The Mound, Edinburgh, EH1 9SP.


Alternatively MSPs can readily be emailed. Details of your own MSP (including email address) can be easily obtained from the Scottish Parliament web-site www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps .

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