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A powerful committee of MSPs has listened to the case made by the Cairngorms Campaign and Scottish Council for National Parks for planning powers in the proposed Cairngorms National Park to be at least as strong as those for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

"Bugaboo Ridge, Corrie of the Chokestone Gully" Grahame NicollA joint petition from the Cairngorms Campaign and Scottish Council for National Parks gained the opportunity for the Campaign and SCNP to appear in April before the Petitions Committee in person and press the case for improvements to the proposed planning provisions. Among the signatories supporting the joint SCNP/CC petition were MSPs Dennis Canavan, Robin Harper and Mike Rumbles. Other signatories included the Heads of organisations such as the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB, Ramblers' Association Scotland, Woodland Trust and Scottish Environment LINK, as well as well known outdoor figures including Cameron McNeish and Irvine Butterfield. Over 30 leading figures from the outdoor and environment worlds added their names.

The joint petition declares that the recommended planning powers are inadequate "to ensure the effective protection and sustainable development of an area which has suffered from some of Scotland's most bitter planning controversies." It calls on the Parliament to examine why the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority is recommended to be a planning authority whereas the Cairngorms NPA is not. It then asks the Parliament to urge the Scottish Executive to ensure that powers for the Cairngorms are at least as comprehensive as those for Loch Lomond & the Trossachs.

The invitation to appear before the Petitions committee to discuss the planning issues raised by National Park designation followed reference earlier in the year to the Cairngorms Campaign position during a Members Debate in the Parliament about World Heritage Site designation. The CC/SCNP delegation comprised of :- Bill McDermott (former Deputy Chief Officer of the Peak District National Park and nowadays a shellfish farmer and Highland resident). Robert Maund (former Director of Planning with Strathclyde Regional Council and closely familiar with the circumstances under which the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is being established). Bill Wright, (Cairngorms Campaign Officer). In the opening presentation Bill Wright set out the problems with the current proposals which will most likely :-

Stuart RaeFirstly, prepare ripe ground for disputes between local authorities and the proposed National Park Board.

Second, ironically thus present more problems for Scottish Executive Ministers in resolving planning disputes.

Third, disenfranchise those Board members who have been directly elected, compared to local authority appointees, and thus make it less attractive to stand for election.

Fourth, create confusion among the public at large about where the responsibilities for town and country planning lie.

Fifth, from previous experience - fail to deal satisfactorily with contentious issues. There can be a temptation among local authority representatives to vote tactically and not offend other local authority colleagues rather than subsume local political interests to those of the Park Authority.

Finally, fail to meet the criteria required for World Heritage Site designation as discussed during the Members debate held on 14th February.

The Committee were particularly interested in the composition of the National Parks Board, direct elections and the expertise available to the National Park Board. The opportunity to actually appear before the Committee rather than simply submit written material clearly affected the views of the Committee views, with Dr Winnie Ewing stating that "the arguments have swayed me a bit". The Committee agreed that it should write to the Executive to seek its formal views and ask specifically why Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park should be given planning authority status when the Cairngorms National Park will not be given that status.

Full details of the Petition Committee deliberations and the Cairngorms Campaign / SCNP presentation appear on the Parliament web site at 0702.htm

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