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Park Talk

30th September 2014

Author: Duncan Bryden

Here’s a challenge: take a conservationist and a developer out to the pub and ask them about their work in the Cairngorms. Over the first pint you may well hear the conservationist, outline the threats to capercaillie, wildcat, farmland wading birds and invertebrates. Broaden the conversation and you’ll hear about the loss of wild land and native woodlands and rising temperatures warming our seas and rivers leading to species extinction. Behind it all they may claim there is a government that doesn’t care enough and insufficient protection that doesn’t really work.

After another drink the developer will join in and you will probably hear about the high cost of developing in the Park and government red tape, wildlife surveys and conservation measures like Natura designations that stymie house building and economic growth. They will tell you, there is an imbalance between protecting nature and supporting the sustainability of local communities.

As you listen to all this you may well puzzle over the apparent dichotomy of weak regulation as viewed by one party, and over burdensome rigid regulation as seen by the other.

You will probably need to buy the next round of drinks. At which point it’s your chance to make some points.

You could suggest to the conservationist that we need to be positive and encourage youngsters to become our future conservationists and not to ignore the many positive conservation stories from across the Park that are already happening. Does a constant downbeat conservation message rather than one of hope and encouragement actually cause conservation’s greatest supporters – the general public – to tune out? Maybe?

You might also want to point out to the developer that a high standard of design and sense of place compatible with community wishes and the other aims of the National Park should not be unexpected when they bring their plans forward. Almost nine out of ten of our visitors, who make the Park economy tick, would recommend the Park as a destination. It appears they like the environment they currently see.

Of course we should not dismiss the warnings– too few affordable houses or capercaillie can erode hope. We need to convince both sides to move in a direction that will make things better and – find new solutions.

With a general thumbs up from the Government’s Reporters Unit, the widely consulted new Cairngorms Local Development Plan will hopefully soon be approved and provide a basis for some of these new solutions.