LINK National Parks Task Force

NEMT is a member of Scottish Environment LINK, the national body which coordinates environmental matters across a range of Scottish NGOs. LINK’s work is carried out by specific ‘task forces’ and, following a meeting last year between LINK and representatives of the Cairngorms National Park Authority [CNPA], a new Task Force devoted to National Parks was established. NEMT is a member of this.

This Task Force’s remit covers both existing National Parks, along with consideration as to whether other areas of Scotland should be supported for designation. LINK members meet regularly with the Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson, and officials.

From NEMT’s perspective, the key issue is the management of the Cairngorms National Park. A central problem is that, unlike the National Parks in England and Wales, the aims of the Scottish National Parks include a provision for encouraging economic development. Safeguards in the form of a requirement to give priority to environmental conservation in the case of any conflict with other aims were built into the enabling Act.

However, in the case of the Cairngorms, these safeguards have failed rather badly in respect of some issues. In particular, the CNPA believes that the only way that it can provide affordable housing for local people is to support proposals by private developers for extensive house building developments, a small percentage of which is deemed as ‘affordable’. Such a policy is leading to environmental damage and serves, in many instances, to the building of second homes for outsiders.

The most notorious example of this is the proposal to build what amounts to a new town [An Camus Mor] adjacent to Aviemore. The Cairngorms Campaign, along with other NGOs, have take CNPA to court over its setting aside the Reporter’s findings that the provision for new housing was excessive. Judgement regarding this is expected in the summer.

Bill McDermott, the task force convenor, has visited the Peak District National Park in England to see how it manages the issue of affordable housing. He has found that strict residency criteria and limited affordable housing, not coupled to new building for the general market, can work well. Residency qualifications have used by the East Dunbartonshire Council to ensure appropriate development within their section of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park. These can be made to work. The task force will now take this forward with CNPA.

Its differences with CNPA aside, the Task Force intends to support the Park Authority on issues where common cause can be found. One such issue is the mutual concern that the Park risks been encircled by major wind farms build just outside its borders but highly visible from wild land within its boundaries.

David Windle NEMT

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