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TRANSFER OF THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS CAIRNGORM ESTATE TO A NEW OWNER

01-12-2005

The Highlands and Islands Enterprise's Estate in the Cairngorm National Park occupies the upper parts of Glenmore and includes Northern Corries and also the ski developments in Coire na Ciste and also Coire Cas where the funicular railway operates. The Campaign is clear that this is a key land unit for reasons laid out in the letter (below) it sent to the deputy minister. In addition, we drew up a position paper on the matter and co-ordinated the response of a range of organisations who supported the paper.


Rhona Brankin MSP

Deputy Minister for the Environment and Rural Development

Pentland House

47 Robb’s Loan

Edinburgh

EH14 1TY

December 2005


Dear Minister,


Need for Ministerial Overview of the Transfer of Highlands and Islands Enterprise Cairngorm Estate to a New Owner


I am writing to you on behalf of the organisations who have added their support to the attached paper on the transfer of Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Cairngorm Estate to different ownership.


The situation has been the subject of careful consideration by voluntary organisations who have a detailed knowledge of the area and involvement in its past history. This has led them to conclude that this land transfer has strategic and political implications far beyond its boundaries, and that the transfer requires a ministerial overview because the area:-


1) Is a key land unit, as described in the attached document, with respect to both the protection of the Central Cairngorms and the Badenoch and Strathspey tourist industry and for the future successful functioning of the Cairngorms National Park.


2) Along with the Forestry Commission for Scotland’s lower ground in Glenmore, it has high inherent scientific, conservation, recreational, educational and landscape values as recognised by the.EU designations and by the findings of the 1981 Lurcher’s Gully Public Inquiry.


3) The estate and developments upon it have a history of more acute and prolonged conflict than any other area in Scotland and these conflicts have been sufficiently serious to encroach periodically onto the national political stage.


4) These conflicts have arisen not simply because of development pressures but also the remit, attitudes and skill level of the present owner.


5) If Cairngorm Mountain Ltd, with its present heavy debts, is forced to cease functioning, millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will have to be expended on the estate to remove a wide range of structures.


6) The land was transferred originally from the then Forestry Commission to the then Highlands and Islands Development Board in 1971 through the intervention of the Secretary of State for Scotland.


The evidence presented in the paper shows that the decision of selection of landowner, the new owner’s skills range, that owner’s ongoing financing and terms of remit will have implications for the avoidance of future major conflict, for the wider Cairngorms National Park, for areas geographically outwith HIE area, and for areas designated at the European Union and international level.


The matter therefore cannot simply be treated as a local transfer of land between a regional agency landowner and another pubic landowner.


We write therefore urge that you intervene in this situation to provide a ministerial overview that would ensure that:-


1) These strategic considerations are taken into account through the selection of a suitable landowner and the terms of the remit on which the land is held.


2) The full range of stakeholders is involved in the issue.


3) The financial responsibilities presently held by HIE and Cairngorm Mountain Ltd for ultimate removal of structures on the land and ground restoration are retained by those parties.


Yours sincerely,


R Drennan Watson (Convener)

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