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Park Talk: Going green for recovery

11th June 2020

by CNPA Board Member, Deirdre Falconer

Tourism is the backbone of the economy of the Cairngorms National Park – it sustains 43 per cent of jobs here – and with no tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic this is obviously very worrying. Even the essential businesses that have been allowed to stay open, such as the village shop or the local petrol station, will have seen their takings plummet with less people around. Other non-tourism related businesses such as hairdressers and builders are suffering just as bad during lockdown.

I know this situation is not unique to the Cairngorms National Park, with many other popular visitor destinations in Scotland also being impacted in the same way. It will take a united effort, on a national scale to get us back on our feet again – and there may be some businesses which disappear altogether, which will be a terrible loss – but we’re all in this together and we must come out fighting for survival.

To help with this, the CNPA is developing a ‘Green Recovery Plan’ which will go to our Board for approval on 12th June. Within this plan – if it is approved by board members – is a commitment to making available a £100,000 recovery fund for the Park. We’ll be able to share more details about this after the meeting but it will be targeted towards activities such as visitor infrastructure improvements that help meet the guidance set by Scottish Government to keep people, safe as well as marketing and information that promotes the Park as a visitor destination and that welcomes visitors back in a sensible way.

Other areas of our work that will help in the economic recovery include ensuring that the planning function continues to operate effectively. At the recent planning committee meeting – held via video conferencing and streamed live to the public – one of the applications approved was for new visitor accommodation in Kingussie. The development is in the old Police Station in the town’s High Street and will add to the tourist offering, bringing more money to the town when it is ready to open for business. If we are granting consent for developments now – when construction firms are back to work fully – then there will be plenty projects for them in the pipeline. At the meeting we also approved the repair works required for the funicular railway, an important attraction for the Badenoch and Strathspey economy.

Similarly, nature conservation can also help kick start the economy. Submitting funding applications for conservation projects now, means that jobs are created and contractors are required to deliver these activities as and when restrictions are eased.

All of this work – and all of us working together – will help to get the economic wheels of the Cairngorms National Park turning again.