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The Cairngorms National Park Authority are in the final analysis stage of the Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan process. The Plan will go to the CNPA board on 10 June followed by submission to Scottish Ministers for final approval.
Of the 1,400 responses received to the formal public consultation for the next Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan, over two thirds of respondents supported the draft Plan’s outcomes and objectives across the three themes of Nature, People and Place.
Carolyn Caddick, Deputy Convenor of the Cairngorms National Park Authority Board said: “Over half of the total response to the draft Park Plan came from people within the Park, with more than 700 local residents, businesses, community groups and land managers taking part. Alongside these, more than 50 organisations responded, from councils to deer management groups, NGOs and community organisations.
“The analysis stage is a critical part in the process of delivering a plan that reflects local and national priorities for the future of the Park. Inevitably, any plan of this nature will involve a degree of compromise, with the consultation hearing views on both sides of several issues.”
CNPA has reviewed every one of the 1,400 responses and is now pulling together a full consultation report, which will be published in full alongside the final Plan in June. In the meantime, CNPA staff and board are considering potential changes to the plan, in light of the feedback received. Whilst these discussions are ongoing, several areas of focus have emerged as key priorities:
On the Nature section of the plan, 75% of respondents agreed with the overall outcomes proposed. There was strong support from a wide range of respondents for action to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. There was some debate about how far that action should go and how quickly, with many keen for the plan to be even more ambitious and others asking for changes to some of the targets. Peatland restoration and ecological restoration were both welcomed, as was the creation of new rural jobs. On land management there was significant debate over woodland expansion, muirburn (some calling for a ban, others for it to be protected as an important land management activity), grouse moor management and controlling deer numbers. These issues will be considered carefully as the final park plan is developed.
Within the People section, 83% respondents felt the draft outcomes were on the right track, with a number of comments received about them being ‘sensible’ and ‘pragmatic’, albeit more detail has been requested for some of the objectives. Support for young people to remain in the Park, helping local businesses transition to net zero and welcoming a more diverse range of visitors to the Park were all popular. A common concern was about the lack of affordable housing for local residents and workers and, whilst these issues were addressed in the Place section, the strength of feeling illustrates the strong relationship between housing and its role in sustaining communities and businesses within the Cairngorms National Park.
85% of respondents agreed with the overall outcomes proposed in the Place section. Affordable housing and controls on second homes and rental properties both came out very strongly, as did the need for improved public transport options, cycle paths and walking routes. The emphasis on sustainable tourism was welcomed, albeit some felt that more investment was required to accommodate the number of visitors already coming to the Park. There were calls for the rich cultural heritage of the area to be celebrated, and for more to be done to support local communities post-Covid.
Xander McDade, Board Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who responded to the draft Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan. It’s encouraging that a clear majority of people support our draft proposals for Nature, People and Place, but we will listen carefully to all opinions and take these into account as we explore changes to the plan.
“As always with a document of this nature, there will be a range of opinions on both sides of a number of issues and our job as a Park Authority is to listen to all sides of the argument and take a considered view of the best way forward, in line with the founding principles of the National Park.
“We are fortunate to have such a large body of opinion to draw from, including over 50% of responses from people in the Park. We look forward to sharing more information on this as soon as it’s available in the summer.”