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Visitors, health & learning are focus for ‘Big Park Big Questions’

16th August 2016

A National Park should benefit everyone whether it’s health benefits, learning experiences or just pure enjoyment. And there is nowhere quite like the Cairngorms National Park to deliver on all three with excellent outdoor access infrastructure, amazing landscapes and wildlife, and visitor attractions and facilities.

However, we do need to do more and the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and partners are asking people to make their views known on how we can further improve on the Cairngorms National Park during the Big Park Big Questions consultation.

Launched at the end of June, Big Park Big Questions is the consultation on the next Cairngorms NPPP for 2017-22. The NPPP is a management plan for the whole Park, setting out a vision and overarching strategy for managing the area. It sets out how all those with a responsibility for the Park will co-ordinate their work to tackle the most important issues.

Visitors, health and learning are three of ‘The Big 9’ issues – identified to help focus the consultation – and are closely linked with cross cutting benefits:

  • Visitor Infrastructure: looking at where investment is needed to ensure the highest possible experience for visitors.
  • Active Cairngorms: how can infrastructure be improved in the Park to encourage people to be active and healthy?
  • Learning and Inclusion: inspiring a diversity of people to engage with and care for the Park through lifelong learning and giving children the opportunity to visit and learn from being in the Cairngorms National Park.

Further investment in maintaining and upgrading key off-road routes for the enjoyment of visitors and residents; providing the opportunity for every child to visit the Park during their school life to learn about and connect with the area and encouraging people to use the Park for physical activity daily, are all part of the vision going forward.

In a recent survey 96 per cent of visitors said they love the Cairngorms National Park; 98 per cent said they would recommend the Park to others and 93 per cent said they would visit the Cairngorms National Park again, with low level, short walks being the second most popular activity when people are in the Park. Therefore ensuring a good path network is essential – and especially in relation to the health agenda with 20 per cent of Scotland’s population being physically inactive and with physical inactivity being the second biggest cause of mortality in Scotland.

Good infrastructure, whether it is in the form of paths or ranger bases is also important to ensure the promotion the Cairngorms National Park as a great place for lifelong learning.

Elaine Mead, chief executive for NHS Highland commented: “Many of these Big Park Big Questions are what we in NHS Highland are seeking to address on a daily basis and so it heartening that the Cairngorms National Park Authority also see the importance of their role. We greatly welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with the CNPA to improve the wider health of all individuals and communities who live, work or visit the park.

“All of the nine big questions have some impact on health – either direct or indirect.  The interplay between the environment; individual behaviours and how people feel about themselves are all really important factors around how ‘healthy’ people are, how they feel and their sense of wellbeing. These were all important themes which came up when we held our public consultation into the redesign of health and social care across Badenoch and Strathspey.

“The Park boasts a magnificent environment and strong communities. We look forward to working together to build on these strengths, and to ensure we achieve inclusion and improved health for all.”

Brian Wood, a CNPA board member and former head teacher said: “The Cairngorms National Park is a great place for health and wellbeing and an excellent place for learning. We’re delighted to see schools and groups coming to the Park through initiatives such as the Travel Grant Scheme. Our ambition though is that every child in Scotland should have the opportunity to come to the Cairngorms, learn about it and appreciate it and encouraging a lifelong passion for this special place.”

Anne MacLean, chair of Inclusive Cairngorms said: The National Park offers great opportunities for people living, working in and visiting the Cairngorms, but we also know that there are barriers for some people in accessing and engaging with the Park. We are delighted that the Park Plan recognises this and look forward to working with the Park Authority to engage groups who are under-represented and help create a Park for All.”

The CNPA is outlining the big issues on which they want peoples’ views. Input from partners, communities, businesses and the general public is important to ensure that the Cairngorms National Park continues to thrive for people and nature. The questions raised in the consultation reflect the issues facing communities within the Park but also the big questions about how the Cairngorms National Park benefits people across Scotland.

Big Park Big Questions is a 14 week consultation, closing on 30th September. Following this, the proposed NPPP will go before the CNPA board before being submitted to Ministers for approval in the spring of 2017.

You can get more information on the Cairngorms National Park Authority website Twitter via @cairngormsnews using #BigParkBigQuestions.