22nd May 2020
The Cairngorms National Park Authority Planning Committee meeting took place today online, with members of the public able to view the proceedings from their homes for the first time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the closure of the CNPA offices to the public with staff working from home and all meetings taking place via video conferencing. Members of the committee joined staff in a virtual meeting room while applicants, objectors and other members of the public watched the presentations and discussions.
The CNPA has been working on delivering meetings in a virtual way for some time now and today’s meeting proved a success.
Xander McDade, Board Convener said: “I was delighted we were able to hold our first live-streamed public meeting. We have been looking at how to live stream our meetings for the past year now, with officers having put in a huge amount of behind the scenes work to ensure this could happen in a stable and consistent manner. Technology has advanced significantly since we started looking at this and our systems have vastly improved even over the past few weeks of lockdown. The Board is committed to our decisions being made in an open and transparent way that is accessible to as many people as possible.”
Three applications appeared on the agenda for decision this morning (22nd May) including the works required to strengthen the Cairngorm Mountain funicular railway, which were given the go ahead.
Highlands & Islands Enterprise submitted the application which sought to address the issues that resulted in the closure of the railway – the main uplift for skiers in the winter and a popular visitor attraction in summer – since October 2018.
The works involve the installation of reinforcing props and concrete bases beside existing piers beneath the railway viaduct.
Addressing the committee, Planning Officer, Stephanie Wade said: “We are recommending this application for approval. The project involves the addition of strengthening props to an existing piece of infrastructure on Cairngorm to allow the funicular railway to continue to operate safely. The long term landscape and visual impacts of those structures will be minimal and with the construction details submitted as well as recommended conditions attached, the disturbance to ground will be minimised and habitats will be restored on completion.”
Planning Committee Convener Eleanor Mackintosh commented: “In the context of the existing funicular railway infrastructure, this is a modest planning application and there is no reason in policy terms for us to refuse it. Objections to the proposals in terms of the cost, or peoples’ opinions on whether the funicular should be repaired or not, are not relevant in determining the application. I support the officer’s recommendation to grant planning permission.”
An application to convert the former Police Station in Kingussie into holiday flats was also approved, along with a prior approval notice for a forestry track in Glen Clova. The development in the Caddam Plantation is required for woodland thinning as part of the local estate’s woodland management plan.
This is the second planning committee meeting that has taken place since the lockdown began but the first to be broadcast for public viewing.
Geva Blackett, Deputy Board Convener added: “Given the rural nature of the National Park it is not always easy for members of the public to travel and attend our meetings which is why we have been working on live streaming them. Today’s live streamed Planning Committee went very smoothly for everyone with over 45 people watching. I hope to see this number grow in the future.”
To read this week’s planning committee papers in full please go to the planning pages on the CNPA website.