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PARK TALK – July 2020

9th July 2020

It’s good to see visitors returning to the Cairngorms National Park. Our economy is heavily reliant on tourism so the impacts of not having visitors here are significant and economic recovery is going to be a big focus in the coming months.

The Park Authority has recently agreed a Green Recovery Plan aimed at helping the economy bounce back but in a way that delivers a fairer, greener and more equal society, with a fund of £130,000 available to support this. And throughout lockdown we’ve made sure there have been no hold-ups in the planning service – so once everything is back to the ‘new normal’ – work can commence.

Inward investment is going to be essential to support sustainable rural development post-Covid. The CNPA has focussed on using its budget from the Scottish Government to lever in funds from elsewhere to support ambitious targets for nature conservation, rural development and delivering an outstanding visitor experience.

Funds from external sources enable a variety of activities to be undertaken. For example, conservation work like restoring degraded peatlands; in relation to our cultural heritage, there is the Badenoch Great Place project and in my own patch – £2.34million came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Tomintoul & Glenlivet Landscape Partnership (TGLP) some four years ago. Further partner funding brought the total project value up to £3.6m.

This regeneration funding has been instrumental in delivering over 20 projects significantly enhancing the landscape, heritage, skills and development opportunities in the long term.

I particularly welcome the investment in our cultural heritage like at Scalan in the Braes of Glenlivet. This was a small community set up in the 18th century for the secret training of Catholic priests. An application to repair and conserve these historic buildings for the future came before our planning committee just over a year ago and was wholeheartedly approved.

The Speyside Way Spur improvements have resulted in a tremendous asset for walkers and cyclists. The new bird hide at Tomintoul looks out over an area that has been enhanced for breeding waders. And of course, there’s the Dark Sky project – one of the biggest, most exciting things to happen in our area for a long time, giving us a unique selling point.

With large scale projects, supported by external funders, jobs are created (which is great) but it still requires a huge volunteer effort from the youngest to the oldest in the community – thanks to them all – and I hope that people continue to be involved long into the future.

The CNPA will continue to lever in funds for a wide range of projects that support local businesses, communities and the natural and cultural heritage. I don’t think people on the outside looking in can appreciate the sheer complexity and hard work involved in doing this, particularly with large sums of money. For TGLP, without the cooperation of all partners – but particularly the CNPA who led on this multi-million pound project – this massive investment to the area would have been lost.

On that note, I would like to congratulate those involved in developing the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project which has been awarded £2million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. I want to recognise the hard work of volunteers in Carrbridge who helped secure this significant sum of money for the benefit of the whole Park. This is just the sort of thing I am referring to when I talk about inward investment, helping to kick start the economy with new jobs and work for local contractors, foresters, etc. The benefits resulting from TGLP have been substantial – the same will be true for capercaillie and everything that benefits from healthy native pinewoods – including people!

Eleanor Mackintosh, CNPA Planning Committee Convener.