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Park Talk: We all need Planning

20th April 2021

I have been involved with Planning and Development Management for a very long time now – to my astonishment, for over two decades – both in my role as a local councillor for Aberdeenshire Council and with the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

I firmly believe that the planning process should improve life for the region’s residents and visitors, whether by the delivery of affordable homes, better public facilities or enabling access to land so local businesses can grow and thrive. The planning process should not be a barrier to good development but must be about ensuring that the right development happens in the right place, is of good quality and well designed, without impacting negatively on our wildlife and landscapes.

The adoption of the new Cairngorms National Park Local Development Plan will do just that. This new LDP is not just a plan for the CNPA to follow – it’s the Local Development Plan that the five local authorities that cover the Park area will use to determine applications that have not been ‘called in’ by the Park Authority.

I particularly welcome the change to policy for certain communities in the Park where affordable homes are needed the most. New developments will now be required to deliver 45 per cent affordable housing, a very significant increase from 25 per cent. This is really good news for communities like Aviemore, Ballater, Braemar and Blair Atholl – all popular areas for visitors with high numbers of second homes and high property prices.

As well improving life for residents, a Local Development Plan must also consider the needs of visitors to an area. We took care to ensure the LDP contains policies that support appropriate economic and recreational activity. I do think that if a destination is attractive to visitors it also makes it a great place to live and work!

With the easing of travel restrictions and a staycation summer on the horizon, there has been much work done by our planners and other colleagues to support economic and recreational activity, including paths, car parks, signage.  These infrastructure projects will help ensure that we are managing for visitors effectively, ensuring that people can stay safe, while greatly reducing the impacts on residents and wildlife.

For example, a new roadside path from the Beach Car Park to the Glenmore Lodge turn off at Loch Morlich, which was granted planning permission in 2019, has now been completed. Unfortunately construction was delayed last summer due to coronavirus restrictions. This will greatly improve the safety of visitors in that area, along with car park improvements and other road safety measures locally. In Deeside, car park improvements by the National Trust for Scotland at the Linn of Dee are underway and Balmoral Estate have applied for planning consent to extend the car park at Loch Muick.

While all of this work is aimed at supporting increasing numbers of visitors to the National Park, the new paths and road and car park improvements are also there for residents to use 365 days of the year, making life easier and more enjoyable for everyone. Stay safe, stay local and enjoy all the experiences the Park has to offer.