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Park Talk: Goodbye 2022

22nd December 2022

By Xander McDade, Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority Board

December’s blog is always a reflection on the past year and while I feel there are many positives to celebrate, I acknowledge there remains many challenges impacting the lives of people here and across the country. The cost of living crisis particularly concerns me and the negative impact that it is having on so many families, individuals and businesses, particularly at this time of year.

2022 has however, represented a return to some form of normality following coronavirus. For example, our visitor numbers were more in keeping with what we would expect, but I know only too well about the recruitment challenges that some businesses have had to tackle. It was nice too to see some annual events return to the calendar, including the Cairngorms Nature Big Weekend.

The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was obviously an enormously significant moment in history, with the eyes of the world on Royal Deeside in the days that followed.  The sad news brought the nation to a standstill, as we all reflected on a life dedicated to service and her contribution to life here in the Cairngorms National Park will never be forgotten.

Just a few weeks before, we launched the fourth Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan 2022-2027, bringing to a conclusion over a year’s worth of consultations and conversations with a wide variety of organisations and individuals to ensure we have a Plan that is good for people, wildlife and the environment. From ecological restoration to net zero, supporting young people to stay in the National Park and delivering increased affordable housing and transforming public transport – the vision set out is ambitious – but it needs to be.

Throughout 2022, there has been a huge amount of work and activity associated with the development phase of the ‘Heritage Horizons: Cairngorms 2030’ programme, having been awarded up to £12.5 million the previous year. The programme encompasses 24 individual projects which will result in transformational change for the benefit of people and nature, with the aims and objectives complimenting what has been agreed in the Park Plan.

The projects included in ‘Heritage Horizons: Cairngorms 2030’ are aimed at restoring landscapes; improving travel connectivity; empowering communities and improving peoples’ health and wellbeing.  We should find out next summer if we have impressed the National Lottery enough to progress to the delivery phase. Fingers crossed!

At the core of all this work is the journey to net zero, and according to a new report, this could be achieved in the National Park as early as 2025.

Just a couple of reminders before I sign off for 2022… please consider standing for election to the Board of Park Authority. Elections are in March and there is lots of information on our website if you want to know more. Also, if you didn’t get a chance to tune into the Cairngorms Characters podcast earlier this year, it is still available to listen to on various streaming platforms – something to enjoy over the festive period while you savour a mince pie!

Finally, I would like to wish all you a Very Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2023.