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New community in the Cairngorms National Park gets the go-ahead

11th June 2010

The Planning Committee of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has approved, in principle, plans to create a new community on the outskirts of Aviemore – one of the biggest developments to happen in the Park in a generation.

The new community – An Camas Mor – has already been accepted as one of the projects in the Scottish Government’s Sustainable Communities Initiative and in doing so – is set to become an exemplar community for its sustainability in terms of the environment, socially, the economy, mobility, and resources management.

The development, which will take 20 years to complete, is the largest and most complex application to go before the CNPA and is the only proposal for a new community in any UK National Park.

The Planning Committee – meeting in Boat of Garten today (Friday 11 June) – was overwhelmingly in favour of the application but there was disagreement among members with regards to the numbers of homes to be permitted. Planning officers had recommended that permission be for up to 1,100 homes and not the 1,500 applied for. However, following a vote (10-9), planning permission was granted in principle for the full amount with a review to take place when the development reaches 630 units.

Committee member and local councillor, Gregor Rimell said: “I think it is too early to be that prescriptive and that we need a degree of flexibility to ensure the viability of this community. I am satisfied that the right number will be reached as we pass each review point.”

There are extensive conditions attached to the approval in principle, including that the applicant must submit a landscape and ecology masterplan before the full masterplan for the site is submitted; more substantial areas of woodland and habitats to be retained or created; the Coylumbridge junction will not be realigned; and the new access road will be provided early in the development and be a construction route from the beginning of it. The permission is also subject to a Section 75 legal agreement to ensure – among other things – the delivery of affordable housing, health care and education provision, off-site compensatory habitats and provision of foot/cycle paths.

Planning officers and committee members have assessed the application against the aims of the National Park and the CNPA’s set of adopted Principles for An Camas Mor. These include that the development be ‘Fit for a National Park’ in terms of being an exemplar of sustainable development; be ‘A Real Cairngorms Community’ in terms of being inclusive with a demographically balanced resident population; be a community which collectively tackles ‘Climate Change’; takes account of and responds to the wider ‘Landscape Context’; demonstrate that ‘Biodiversity’ can be conserved and enhanced on the site and surrounding area and that An Camus Mor contribute significantly to the delivery of ‘Affordable Housing’ to meet local needs and to be a place for work (see notes to newsdesks for more information on the aims of the Park and Adopted Principles).

Recommending An Camus Mor for approval, Don McKee, the CNPA’s Head of Development Management said: “An Camas Mor has a long and well established history. The concept of a new community in this location predates the existing Badenoch and Strathspey Local Plan, is in the existing Highland Structure Plan and is in the Cairngorms National Park Local Plan, which is expected to be adopted by the end of the year.

“In recommending this for approval we will be seeking the highest quality standards to be applied throughout and a development that exceeds the normal sustainability requirements. This should be a real living and working community that reflects the setting within the Cairngorms National Park and in doing so; the developer has to deliver a proper village with affordable homes, useful facilities and work places.

“The considered phasing of this massive project will allow the community to grow naturally but by limiting the footprint of the settlement, we can prevent unnecessary damage to other areas from sprawl and work to reduce the visual impact. Indeed the compact footprint means that the majority of the settlement is within a five minutes walking radius.”

Duncan Bryden CNPA Planning Committee Convener added: “This is not about building houses, it’s about building a community – a place for people to live, work and play. We will be looking for a development of outstanding quality – something that can be admired, not just UK-wide, but internationally.

“There has been so much work done by the many partners and agencies involved in this project over a long period of time but there is still very much to do. This is an approval in principle for a strategic, long-term development and we don’t have all the answers or the fine detail in front of us today but by making the decision that we have, we can progress this work stage by stage in a thorough and rigorous manner.”