Concern over access restrictions in Cairngorms new town plans

Cairngorms National Park Authority granted permission in March 2014 for a 1,500-home new town to be built at An Camas Mor, at the Rothiemurchus estate near Aviemore. This was subject to a planning condition that the new town’s impact on landscape and ecology was reviewed once the first 630 homes were built.

However, plans emerged this week to replace this condition with a raft of alternative measures that will result in alarming restrictions on public access – despite no consultation with recreation bodies. 

The new Habitat Regulations Appraisal discusses potential restrictions on public access to the countryside, including at some areas: 

  • no off-path walking or outdoor recreation
  • removing informal mountain bike tracks
  • deliberate re-vegetation of some paths
  • targeting a reduction in use of some formal paths
  • reduced parking including blocking informal parking.

This includes measures at some areas that are a long way away from the proposed new town - such as Garten Woods and Inshriach. 

Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy said: “We’re alarmed that proposals with such potential to restrict public access have been published just days before this important meeting.

“The changes could have a serious impact for residents, walkers, dog-walkers, cyclists, horse-riders and anglers for an indefinite period, yet they have not been discussed with outdoor recreation bodies – or apparently even the park’s own access forum. 

“We support all efforts to protect wildlife and plants using the robust processes laid out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, but sadly these appear to have been ignored so far.

“Given that promotion of outdoor recreation is one of the aims of the park authority, its planning committee must not grant approval before outdoor bodies and local communities have been properly consulted.”

Ramblers Scotland has spoken with the park authority this week to outline its concerns, and to query why it has not been consulted regarding the Recreation Management Plan alluded to in the planning papers. 

The park authority will consider the request to vary the planning condition on Friday 18 August. It has been recommended for approval by officers.