NEMT Comments on CNPA Proposed Local Development Plan, Spring 2013

The document can be found at

In many places, the document contains vague aspirations, which are inappropriate for what will be formal legal text intended for use in specific development cases by members of the public. For example, Paras 7.4 and 10.5 contain loose exhortations on, e.g. "us all to play a part in making Scotland a better place". Many people differ about how "we" should go about doing this. It is probably too late to remove this all loose material from this document, but it should be reduced considerably. In future documents, such material should be left out as it clutters the text and makes it more difficult to read and use.
The document gives insufficient weight to the overriding "aim of conserving and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage of the area". The plan should highlight that all developments will be tested against this objective.
There is a general requirement on Local Authorities to "identify sufficient land to meet the identified need and demand for housing land in its area". Something needs to be said upfront that the Park Authority will make a case to be released from this general requirement as inappropriate for a National Park and that it will not cater for unrestricted demand for housing, resulting in excessive numbers of second homes and holiday lets. Doing so would inevitably damage the natural heritage that is the Park's "unique" and "key" asset. More affordable housing for residents is needed and this has been used to justify further housing. Policies need to be devised that will cater for residents housing but will not cater for unrestricted housing demand.
Para 1.23
Figure 3 on page 12 should be revised to show areas where natural heritage is key and conservation should have priority, as one of the four aims of the Park, and to assert that development should be restricted in order to achieve this.
Section 3
Reference needs to be made to the landscape impact in this section, e.g. the effect on views from the mountains and from frequently travelled routes.
An important aspect of new housing development is the agreed need for affordable housing for Park residents. The policy here is too weak, simply referring to the national target of 25% for affordable housing. W McDermott has carried out a review of the policies of the Peak District National Park ("Affordable Housing in Cairngorms National Park", dated 11/4/2012 - already supplied to the Park Authority, but a new copy can be sent if wished). This clearly shows that a significantly higher percentage can be achieved, thus, safeguarding the natural
heritage while supplying housing for park residents. Achieving a proportion of greater than 25% would reduce the size and environmental impact of the controversial new town of An Camas Mor.
The policy refers to the need to "reinforce and enhance the character of the existing settlement". Recent housing developments in Aviemore using white rendered finishes and no traditional grey stone arguably do not achieve this and stronger guidance needs to be given on this point. The above review of housing in the Peak District National Park gives good examples of buildings that do achieve this.
Para 3.7
This appears to be incompatible with the proposed new town of An Camas Mor, which clearly will not "reinforce and enhance the character of its surroundings", which are currently highly rural rather than urban.
Para 4.3
This should be stronger. We suggest that it should specifically state upfront that "economic growth will only be supported where this does not conflict with the natural or cultural heritage of the area".
Para 6.3
The policy allows development detrimental to the integrity of an internationally or nationally designated site for "imperative reasons of an economic nature". This get-out clause should be removed as it is in contravention of the overriding aim of the Park.
Para 6.7
It is difficult to see how the proposed developments can "improve the quality of the natural heritage found in the Park". This paragraph should be expanded to give examples of how this apparent contradiction can be resolved. We believe that the proposed Plan should give complete protection for Natura 2000 sites and remove any possibility of a Trump case type appeal to Ministers to override a statutory designation. Cases might arise where Ministers choose to override the Plan but it is better not to raise the possibility that the Park Authority itself may condone this from the start in the Plan.
Para 6.10
We are pleased to see that "an equivalent level of consideration (to that afforded to National Scenic Areas) will also be given to the landscape throughout the whole Park".
Para 6.11
Surely mitigation should apply to any proposed development and should not be restricted to natural heritage? Does this merit a separate section to make clear that it applies to all aspects of a proposed development?
Para 7.1
We welcome the stress placed upon "wildness" in this section.
Para 7.3
The policy allows development detrimental to the landscape character of the area for economic benefits of national importance. This is another get-out clause that should be removed as it is in contravention of the overriding aim of the Park. Cases might arise where Ministers choose to override the Plan but it is better not to raise the possibility that the Park Authority itself may condone this from the start in the Plan.
Para 7.10
We believe that it make sense to make specific reference to the wildness maps being prepared and currently revised by SNH. It makes no sense for the Cairngorms Landscape toolkit to use a different reference point.
The Plan should make clear that there will be no development in areas of high wildness value and that development in areas of medium value would only be supported if no alternatives exist.
The Dark Skies item is important and deserves a separate paragraph, which could also usefully include guidance on sound pollution, e.g. in relation to roads.
Section 8
We support the emphasis on renewable energy and also the statement that "large scale commercial wind turbines are not compatible with the special qualities of the National Park and are not considered to be appropriate within the National Park or where outside the Park they affect its landscape setting".
Section 9
This section needs to address issues of access and shelter in the wild core areas of the Park. We suggest that the Authority makes it clear in this section that approval will not be given to proposals for additional bridges or shelters in areas of high or medium wildness value.
Para 14.26
This states that An Camas Mor will be "a real community, not a holiday village or second home enclave". Many people think that this is exactly what will happen. The Plan needs to give specific details on how this will be achieved.
Para 16.2
This refers to a key project of allowing "responsible open access on Cairngorm Mountain". Our understanding is that some local businesses want to see this, but that a large number of people are opposed to it. The EU funding for the funicular was dependent on the current closed system being maintained. Before promoting such a controversial project, the Plan should be clear on the very good reasons for not allowing open access and how those reasons will be respected.
Supplementary Guidance: Core Paths Plan
Page 106
There should be a clear statement that, while existing paths should be maintained, there will be no new core paths in areas of high or medium wildness value.
Page 107
"Multi use by legitimate forms of outdoor access is encouraged. Legitimate forms of access on paths include walking, cycling and horse riding." This is too lax for core paths in the central Cairngorms: mountain biking over the Lairigs Ghru and an Laoigh, for instance, should be discouraged as "irresponsible", since they damage path surfaces as well as encourage off-path use of bikes on even more fragile surfaces.
Page 108
We endorse the policy that there should be no signage in the central Cairngorms area and suggest that this is extended to all areas of high and medium wildness value, except in woods.

Submitted by Dave Windle

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