Cairngorms park homes need 'exaggerated'

THE Cairngorms National Park Authority heavily over-estimated the need for new housing in the park over the next six years, an inquiry team has found.

A report by Scottish Government planning reporters Jill Moody and Hugh Begg into objections to the park's first local development plan said housing allocations were "over-generous".

The reporters said they had "significant reservations" about the approach taken by the CNPA in calculating housing land requirement and recommends the entire section on housing land requirement and supply should be deleted.

The authority proposed a 50 per cent additional allowance to provide for the building of second and holiday homes and vacant property, and a further 15 per cent to allow for uncertainty in projections.

But the reporters said the figures appeared to have been "plucked out of the air". They add: "Nowhere in the (park plan] can we find a strategic objective which supports policies that encourage an allocation of housing land very considerably beyond that required to accommodate a population as reasonably projected on current trends. We conclude that the rationale for the calculation of the housing requirement is unconvincing and the connection with housing land requirement is not made sufficiently clearly."

The authority estimated some 1,568 houses are needed to 2016, but the report says the "overwhelming weight of evidence" leads to a conclusion that this is a "substantial over-estimate".

It says it sympathises with an objector who said the allocation should be 950 until 2016.

One of the largest housing projects earmarked for the park was for 1,500 homes near to the River Spey on the Rothiemurchus estate near Aviemore. The reporters said they could not endorse the proposal and a re-evaluation is justified as "available evidence does not support the allocation of so much housing land in one place".

A spokesman for the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) said that, with other voluntary groups, it has broadly welcomed the report: " SCNP is greatly encouraged that the government-appointed reporters to the local plan inquiry have identified the many weaknesses in the NPA's approach to planning in a national park.

"There never could be any justification for the over-generous allocation for housing, most of which would go to second homes and economically inactive retirees.

"We are particularly pleased that the reporters have found in favour of the objectors to An Camas Mor – a cock-eyed proposal if ever there was one. Now it is up to the park authority to see sense and correct its mistakes."

The Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group said it shares the reporters' concerns about the "excessive damaging developments" in several communities.

Duncan Bryden, the park authority's planning committee convener, said CNPA is still considering the report.

"In the run-up to the plan we consulted very widely and extensively and the local plan was worked through in great detail. Clearly the reporters have viewed it in a different light and we are now dealing with the comment they have made and we will look very closely at that."

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