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The 20th anniversary of the Cairngorms National Park

1st September 2023

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Cairngorms National Park, our CEO Grant Moir reflects on a decade in the role and just some of our highlights to date.

September marks the 20th anniversary of the Cairngorms National Park – this means that I have had the privilege to have been at the helm for half of its life!

The last decade has been the most rewarding and challenging of my career – there’s been Covid, the declaration of climate and nature emergencies, Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis. During all this time we’ve seen increasing investment in the National Park to help us achieve our aims. Our ability to lever external funds to support projects – big and small – that help communities and the environment is definitely something to be celebrated.

The Park Authority has been instrumental in securing millions of pounds from the National Lottery, for example. The Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership project received £2.34 million to support regeneration projects in that special area of the National Park, whilst the Badenoch Great Places Project saw £352,000 invested into that area’s cultural heritage. This year will see the conclusion of the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, which brought in more than £2.9 million to help conserve this charismatic bird for future generations.

In December we will find out if we have been successful in securing Lottery funding for the delivery phase of our Cairngorms 2030 programme. This five-year, £43 million programme will put the power to tackle the nature and climate crisis in the hands of the people of the Park, benefitting people’s health and wellbeing, developing sustainable transport solutions and enhancing nature.

Something I am particularly proud of is how our ranger services have evolved over the last 20 years. Alongside the six estate-based partner services which we grant aid, the Park Authority now has its own dedicated ranger service, including seasonal, trainee and volunteer rangers. All boosting the amount of ‘boots of the ground’, delivering for residents and visitors.

Complementary to this is the massive investment in infrastructure, including the completion of the Speyside Way, numerous other path improvements, new and improved car parks and a range of other facilities.

The climate and nature emergencies are far more prominent in our minds than 20 years ago. We have prioritised large-scale peatland restoration (over 3,000ha since 2014) and woodland expansion (over 5,000ha in the last five years) as well as river catchment restoration projects, working closely with land managers across the Park.

There’s been areas of work that have supported local businesses, particularly around training and support, working closely with partners including the Cairngorms Business Partnership and Growbiz. There is much to do on affordable housing, but more than 200 affordable homes have been given planning permission over the last five years alone. Furthermore, the Park Authority is the first planning authority in the country to introduce a minimum 45% affordable housing quota on developments in the communities that need it most.

There’s been projects to conserve and enhance all manner of rare and special species including aspen, wildcats, waders, raptors, twinflower, pine hoverfly – and now we’re looking at the return of beavers after an absence of 400 years.

None of this can be achieved by working alone. We need to continue to work with local businesses, national agencies, private estates, local communities and many other organisations. There is only strength in partnership working.

We have much still to do but, after 20 years, I hope that people can see and feel the massive benefits that being in a national park – an internationally recognised status – can bring.