12th July 2019
By Xander McDade, CNPA Convener
In my last column I talked about how we need to ensure that young people have careers and homes in the Cairngorms National Park and readers will be well aware that the issue of affordable housing is one the biggest challenges we have to deal with. What’s a job without somewhere to live?
A couple of weeks ago, the consultation began on the Cairngorms National Park Economic Action Plan (EAP) which sets out some key actions to help ensure that the Park has a sustainable economy that supports thriving businesses and communities for many years to come.
With house prices in the Cairngorms National Park at 30 per cent above the Scottish average but yearly earnings at 26 per cent below, this presents a real struggle for our young people, but it’s also a big issue for local businesses who have problems attracting and retaining staff due to high housing costs. Without a healthy working age population who will provide the essential services needed to help maintain a thriving economy?
The Park Authority can help deliver affordable housing through its Planning & Development Management function and within the EAP there are actions around housing including increased support for community and business-led housing projects. And although we cannot demand that all employers in the Park implement a pay rise in line with house prices, also included in the Plan is the possibility of adopting a living wage scheme for the Park.
That’s just two examples of the proposals in the Economic Action Plan that may help overcome some of the issues around affordable housing and retaining young people. Of course there are many challenges to ensuring the Park’s economy is strengthened in a way that does not impact negatively on our wildlife, habitats and wonderful landscapes.
There are five priority themes in the EAP that provide focus – not only for the Park Authority – but all the partners involved including local authorities, the enterprise networks, other public sector bodies, land owners and business and community groups.
Working more closely with education and training providers, investment in infrastructure, supporting and attracting businesses to come to the area, promoting investment in the diversification of ski centres and helping businesses adapt to climate change are all strands of work that are outlined in the Plan. And there is much more!
When your main economic driver is tourism there will always be challenges and conflicts around strengthening the Park’s economy while at the same time protecting and enhancing what makes the area special. But if we can develop and strengthen the Park’s economy in a sustainable and inclusive way then this will be of benefit to all.
I would encourage anyone with a particular interest in the health of our economy to please get involved and have your say on how we achieve a strong and thriving economy for years to come. To view and respond to the consultation on the Cairngorms National Park Economic Action Plan please go to https://cairngorms.co.uk/working-partnership/national-park-strategies/economic-strategy/