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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Debate over national park plans
Planning powers for the area will be shared
Scotland's second national park will be the largest in Britain under proposals unveiled by Scottish Natural Heritage.

The body is recommending a national park in the Cairngorms which is more than twice the size of the Lake District in the north of England.

Under the proposals, drawn up after wide consultation, the park authority will share planning powers with local councils.

Campaigners for the Highland national park said the lack of power does not make sense but others believe it will give local people more say.

Bill Wright
Bill Wright: "Ministers may have to intervene"
The park, recommended by SNH, stretches from Grantown-on-Spey in the north to Blair Atholl in the south, and from Laggan in the west to Ballater in the east.

The 4,500 sq kms include the Cairngorms and Lochnagar massifs - a clutch of Britain's highest mountains - the remnants of the ancient Caledonian Forest and the Queen's Balmoral Estate.

The Queen's Aberdeenshire residence will not be bound by the park legislation - though it is hoped the estate will continue to co-operate with environmental management in the area.

Planning power for development applications will remain with the five local authorities which lie within the park.

Planning powers

Applications will be judged against a local plan, to be prepared by the local council in partnership with the park authority.

The Cairngorms Campaign, one of the organisations involved in the consultation, condemned the lack of planning powers for the park authority.

It said the park could be the least empowered and the most impoverished in Britain.

Campaigning officer Bill Wright said: "Ministers may have to intervene more often to sort out disputes when they arise between the park authority and one or more of the local authorities. "

The local authorities will remain as the planning authorities, but the national park, under our recommendations will have a right of objection and reference to Scottish ministers.

Dr John Markland, Scottish Natural Heritage
The Scottish Executive will now finalise the details.

Dr John Markland, chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage, said it was important to address both environmental and social and economic issues in the national park area.

He said: "I think everybody felt it was important that the communities that surround the mountains are included in the national park area, not just the mountains themselves."

On the issue of planning powers, Dr Markland said SNH had taken a different view to other national parks.

He said: "We have taken the view that there needs to be a genuine partnership approach to planning with the national park authority being an equal partner with local authorities in the planning process.

"The local authorities will remain as the planning authorities, but the national park, under our recommendations, will have a right of objection and reference to Scottish ministers."

Dr John Markland of Scottish Natural Heritage
"I think it is important it covers communities around the mountains, not just the mountains themselves."
Bill Wright of the Cairngorm Campaign
"Per acre of that very large area we are looking at the most impoverished in Britain."
Environment correspondent Louise Batchelor reports
"THere are concerns that without a strong park body economic development could get out of hand"
See also:

11 Jun 01 | Scotland
Park plans are mapped out
05 Jul 00 | Scotland
Parks bill becomes law
24 Mar 00 | Scotland
National park business boost
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