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Park Talk

20th January 2016

Park Talk January 2016 by Peter Argyle, CNPA Convener

A hundred years ago this country was locked in the terrible slaughter of the First World War, a conflict that changed society dramatically and profoundly. Fifty years ago we were living in less war-like times – even more peaceful – right in the middle of the ‘Swinging Sixties’.

As a schoolboy in 1966, the First World War appeared as something that had happened a very long time ago. Odd to think that school children today are looking back to 1966 with the same chronological perspective. And what will children in 2066 think of our times?

After which random thought, I will get to work and reflect on what this year may hold for the CNPA and the people who live in, work in or visit the Cairngorms National Park.

To begin on a positive note, I was delighted by Mr Swinney’s budget announcement as it effects the CNPA. Our budget came through the Spending Review largely intact. I would argue that National Parks represent tremendous value for money to Scotland and their importance is growing year by year. This is clearly reflected in the Visitor Survey data, particularly the data on overseas visitors and the factors behind their decision making.

Our expenditure is divided broadly into two headings; staff costs and the operational plan. For an organisation with the breadth of responsibilities that fall to the CNPA, our staff compliment is about right and we are fortunate to have people of such high calibre working here.

The operational plan covers everything the CNPA does to deliver, in partnership with many others, the statutory four aims of the Park. This ranges from environmental work such as Cairngorms Nature, moorland management or woodlands; to working with farmers and land managers; to promoting the built and cultural heritage of the many diverse communities living within the Park boundaries.

This year we will be launching our first consultation on the next National Park Partnership Plan (NPPP), a vitally important document which will describe the direction of travel for the CNPA and our partners from 2017 to 2022. I have already written about what I consider will be the most important issues facing us all and which we will have to address in the NPPP. Housing is a challenge facing every community in the Park, while the complex issues around moorland management will probably be the leading question on the conservation side. I hope as many people in possible will join in that debate and help shape the future of this area.

I have no doubt that Broadband will continue to feature in our thinking in 2016. Whilst there have been enormous strides taken in delivering fibre broadband across the Park, with some 80% of premises now able to access this vital infrastructure, this success only serves to increase the frustration of those in areas which are still waiting. The CNPA is committed to working with Community Broadband Scotland to deliver a community-based solution for areas that other organisations cannot reach, while at the same time continuing to work with local authorities and the Scottish Government on delivery of the current project.

2016 is The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. The CNPA will taking the opportunity this offers to run our second Cairngorms Design Awards. The first round of Awards in 2012 were successful in putting the spotlight on good design and on the importance of good design to our built and cultural heritage. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes forward for the 2016 Awards.

And while on the subject of design, the Scenic Route installations will be completed in 2016. This is part of a Scotland-wide project based on the Norwegian approach to combining art and design with landscape.

At risk of giving consciences a twinge, 2016 will also be important for the Active Cairngorms project but then again, where could there be a better place in Scotland to be out and doing? On a personal note I am looking forward to being out and about in the Park and hope to meet as many folk as possible over the months ahead.

Finally, on behalf of my colleagues on the Board and everyone who is part of the CNPA team, I offer you all every good wishes for a peaceful and happy 2016.