Generally there was support for simple measures to manage the congestion that occurs on a significant proportion of days. Most people were prepared to accept a modest increase in the size of the present car park (constrained by the geography of the area) and the introduction of a charge of £2 per visit. Whilst the ideal may be to remove verge parking, it was felt that this would be virtually impossible to achieve and it forms a worthwhile overflow on certain days. If verge parking is going to happen, it is better to be managed at selected sites (excluding the final 150m of road).
The general feeling of the meeting was that coach parking should be provided away from the present car park. NEMT recognise that this is important to many of its member clubs. The general concept of a permit system was discussed although the details are far from clear. Tour coaches would need to be brought into any system as well as club buses. Some screening of the car park by trees was felt to be worthwhile, but there was no consensus on what should be done. Deer numbers mean that fencing would be necessary for many years to come. The estate are highly unlikely to carry out commercial forestry and indeed were looking for direction from the consultation exercise.
There were no plans to drastically change the facilities at the car park. Modest upgrading of the toilet block was desired by some and removal of the visitor centre by others. The special needs of winter climbers, hill walking clubs, cyclists and the disabled were all put to UDAT. Their Board have several ideas to investigate further.
Inevitably there were some who disagreed with some aspects of the plan. NEMT continued to advocate measures to move the focus to Ballater, with its new visitor centre. A shuttle bus service, possibly combined with an interpretative guide would assist "casual tourist" visitors in achieving equity of access as compared to the serious hill walker/climber who is likely to arrive earlier in the day (when there are spaces in the car park). Publicity about alternative "attractions" is necessary if the numbers of visitors are to be accommodated in the area. UDAT are playing a valuable rôle in this by developing low-level path networks around Ballater and Braemar.
This long-standing debate is continuing, but has made significant steps forward during the lifetime of UDAT. Change is likely before and after the establishment of a National Park in the area.
Donald Thomas, 27th February 2000
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