Cairngorm Mountain Masterplan

A Brighter Future for the Hills?

George Allan

So it's here at last- no, not the bulldozers currently creating a building site around the funicular but Highlands and Islands Enterprise's long-awaited masterplan for the mountain. How far does it reflect the principles and proposals laid out in the 'vision' document produced by five voluntary organisations led by NEMT a couple of years ago?

Of course the voluntary organisations strongly opposed the repair of the funicular and, from the start, the masterplanning process was predicated on the funicular being back in service. There is little point in rehearsing the arguments against this decision. Suffice to say that the statement at the beginning of the Masterplan that the only reasons that repair was approved before the masterplan consultation were that the SE Group report recommended this and a decision to repair removed uncertainties stretches credibility to breaking point.

What is striking is that the document says so little about the future of skiing; after all if it wasn't for skiing the north side of the hill would be more like the north side of Braeriach! The SE Group report made recommendations regarding the future of uplift with the funicular back in operation but all we have in the masterplan is a commitment to 'review inefficient uplift and infrastructure'. Unless HIE gets this right, there is little chance that the sharp decline in skiers' interest in Cairngorm will be reversed.

The positives

So what's there to like about the plan? It contains strategies for

It is to be welcomed that fairground 'attractions' such as zip wires and a mountain coaster aren't included but that's not to say that they might not emerge at a later date under the catch all section entitled 'a mountain for all', given that the tube slide infrastructure by the base station isn't mentioned either. While some flexibility over time will be needed around the edges, there mustn't be a drip-drip of applications for new infrastructure proposals which aren't in the plan.

What proposals ring alarm bells?

Repairing the Funicular: will the Park and HIE ensure the ground is fully restored? ©Nick Kempe

The Bigger Picture

HIE has listened, at least to some degree, to the critics: the document stresses the importance of environmental sustainability and the proposal for a Centre for the Mountain Environment reflects the principle that activities on the mountain should reflect only what its unique environment can offer. Giving HIE credit, however, shouldn't disguise the following:

With a new Minister now responsible, there is an opportunity for the Government to radically change the current arrangements, but will it? And what of the National Park Authority? It has legal powers and informal influence. Will it use them to protect the mountain? Could the masterplan be a new start for Cairngorm? It is possible, just donít put your shirt on it!

The masterplan is available here.

Coire na Ciste Proposals

NEMT decided not to object to HIEís proposals to start charging campervan owners to use the Coire na Ciste carpark. We arenít happy about any development at this altitude but accept the need for more campervan facilities in the area. In this case, the car park is already there and in use by campervans. We commented on the proposal suggesting, among other things, improved waste disposal facilities, increased tree planting and seeking increased guarantees against subsequent further development.

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