National Park Plan
The CNP Authority is preparing the required National Park Plan. This will be the key strategic management plan for the Park, and will replace existing Structure Plans. It will cover the conservation, enjoyment, understanding and long-term use of the Park and the people who live, work and visit it. The Plan will set out how the Park will be managed in the future in an integrated and sustainable way. Once approved by Scottish Ministers all public bodies operating in the Park are required to adhere to it. The Authority has published a draft vision and strategic objectives for the Park Plan and is preparing a Draft Park Plan. This will be subject to formal public consultation for three months from March 2006.
Various strands are of Baseline Research are being drawn together. A "State of the Park Report" aims to identify the resources of the Park, their current state and key trends. The document will cover the natural, cultural, visitor and socio-economic resources. A draft report was available for comment until September 2005. The report will be published next year with the Draft Park Plan.
The Policy Context, Key Issues and Special Qualities of the park are being identified through research and discussions with local people, organisations and visitors. These seek a clear view of what needs to be addressed through the Park Plan. CNPA have carried out a Public Investment Review of public spending in the Park to identify how much is spent, what it aims to buy and what impacts it has in relation to the aims of the Park.
The Draft Vision and Strategic Objectives for the Park Plan were discussed by the CNPA Board in April 2005. They provide the basis for detailed consultation and will continue to evolve as the Plan develops. CNPA are involved in discussions with partners about what actions should be taken in the Park over the next 5 years to move towards the Objectives (10-25 years) and Vision (more than 25 years).
I attended a joint meeting of CNPA staff with Scottish Environment Link representatives in July to discuss the draft Vision and Objectives. The papers were at a very early stage, required considerable work and were not at all specific to the Cairngorms. The meeting outlined some of the unique features of the area and expressed the hope that a bolder vision would include a future World Heritage Site. The Objectives are structured around three themes: "Conserving and Enhancing the Park", "Communities" and "Understanding and Enjoying the Park". The group focused on Landscape issues and their interaction with Land Management and Recreational Use. Our feeling was that the existing Vision and Objectives made statements that could already be seen or easily achieved somewhere in the Park area and that it was necessary to carefully quantify the targets. We encouraged the consideration of priorities for each area, recognising that these would differ from one area to another. This should also allow all four aims of the National Park to be pursued within the wider park. It was a worthwhile meeting, providing a good opportunity to meet with other representatives of Link organisations concerned about Cairngorm landscape.
CNPA are carrying out a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Park Plan to identify likely significant effects on the environment and to adjust the plan as appropriate. They intend to broaden the assessment to cover the social and economic aspects of sustainability. The report will be published with the Draft and Final Park Plan.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority is also developing a new Local Plan to cover the whole Cairngorms National Park. The Local Plan will influence how and where communities and settlements grow, where businesses develop, the types of housing that will be built, opportunities for recreation and how the landscapes and countryside of the Park will change over time.
Over the course of the late summer and into the autumn, everyone will have the opportunity to comment on the Consultation Draft Local Plan through a series of meetings and community events. There will be a Final Draft version in early 2006, which will then remain as a 'material consideration' in all planning matters until it can be formally adopted by the National Park Authority, following adoption of the National Park Plan (see above). The Local Plan will deliver some of the Park Plan's objectives through the Park Authority's planning and development control role.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everyone statutory access rights to most land and inland water but people only have these rights if they exercise them responsibly by respecting the privacy, safety and livelihoods of others, as well as caring for the environment. How to achieve this is tackled in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which is now in force. The Park Authority is charged with promoting the Code so that everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority is the Access Authority for the whole of the Cairngorms National Park area. They have a duty to uphold the right of access in the Park, to establish a network of core paths and to set up a Local Access Forum. In co-ordination with the above plans CNPA are also developing an Access Strategy. We will contribute to this as we are able.
Local Outdoor Access Forum
The Park Authority has appointed a Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum with representatives from Land Managers, Communities, Users and Agencies. Their early meetings have been involved with agreeing how they will function and it is understood that future meetings will have public minutes.
Donald Thomas, September 2005
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