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Park Talk: Ensuring we have a well-being economy

8th July 2022

By CNPA Board Member, Janet Hunter

I’m sure readers will have heard the term “well-being economy” but what does it actually mean?

Basically, a wellbeing economy recognises that we need to restore a harmonious relationship between society and nature, in order to enjoy a fair distribution of resources, and live in healthy and resilient communities.

This is exactly our vision for the Cairngorms National Park – a place where people and nature can thrive together and it  is at the heart of the next Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan, which the board of the CNPA approved last month.

A well-being economy  is at the very core of the National Lottery funded ‘Heritage Horizons: Cairngorms 2030’ programme, which aims to deliver transformational change here, benefitting people’s health and wellbeing, delivering on climate change and enhancing nature across the National Park. The programme – made up of 24 individual projects – is on a larger scale than anything previously attempted and aims to inspire communities to take action and make a difference.

Just to be clear, a wellbeing economy is not anti-growth. It is quite the opposite but our economic growth should be sustainable and always be mindful of our precious resources. It should also be fair to all.

We will continue, for example, to need houses and infrastructure but these things should be delivered in a way that does not harm our natural environment and that enhances the experience of residents and visitors.

Talking of visitors – when the Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003, visitor numbers were in the region of 1.4 million annually. By 2019, that number had grown to 2 million.  Increasing numbers of visitors is certainly a boost for the local economy. However, we must ensure that the people and infrastructure are in place to enable visitors to enjoy a holiday that contributes to the Park’s efforts to tackle climate change and the biodiversity crisis. So we need a good network of paths for walking and cycling with e-charging points as well as the ‘boots on the ground’ to help advise people on how to ‘tread lightly’ in the Park.

Our National Park status does attract more visitors but being a national park also attracts funding that can help support our long term vision of being a place where people and nature thrive together. For example, funding awards from the National Lottery, which we have successfully bid for on multiple occasions – the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, the Badenoch Great Place Scheme, along with the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership.

And now Heritage Horizons, which is still in the development phase but which could see up to £12.5million coming to the Park.

So being a National Park is good news for the economy and we have the ambitions and ideas for the future to make sure it’s a wellbeing economy.