CAIRNGORM CLOUDS OF UNCERTAINTY
Mist continues to swirl round the future of the ski area.
|Repair or remove? ©Fraser Anderson
- In July, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) announced that the funicular
will be out of action during the coming winter (and probably beyond). The
repairs, which include work on the piers, beams and foundations, cannot take
place until the spring/summer season of 2020. It is planned to maintain snow
sports this winter by artificial snow-making. Repairing the funicular will
be very expensive indeed but apparently the Scottish Government has sanctioned
this as an option. Although HIE have failed, to date, to make the financial
implications of this public, the cost of repair is reckoned to be less than
the removal of the funicular, although this is hardly a justification for
- HIE has given £90k to the Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust to
develop the latter's plans for the mountain. It is not clear whether this
is because HIE supports the Trust's ambition of taking over the mountain or
whether HIE is obliged to help community groups with plans for possible buy
- HIE has re-engaged the consultants who produced the recent "review
of uplift" and they have published an addendum
to their report. This proposes new uplift in Coire Cas, increased snow
making capacity, reopening the shieling restaurant, base area improvements
and a reduced role for the funicular. Summer activities proposed include a
mountain coaster (the siting of which has been changed from the ridge above
the main car park to the area south west of the base lodge) and mountain biking.
- HIE still has to publish its masterplan. HIE has said that it will consult
on its proposals but how does this square with what appears to be support
for repairing the funicular?
- In the short term, HIE is scrabbling around to find anything to increase
summer revenue. The Park has approved an application for a temporary "play
park" in the lower car park at the base station; NEMT objected to this
as it was not part of a master plan and commented on aspects of the design.
A bizarre development is that rides up the track to the Ptarmigan on an ATV
are being offered for, it seems, £60 per head!
- The Park has approved an application for the upgrade and extension of the
- NEMT has objected to a recent application to level off areas to improve
snow cover as inadequate information has been provided as to how the work
will be undertaken and that it should not be considered until HIE¡¦s
master plan has been finalised.
NEMT held a meeting with the Cairngorms Campaign, the Badenoch and Strathspey
Conservation Group, Mountaineering Scotland and the newly formed Campaign
for a Better Cairngorm with a view to making common cause on an extremely
worrying situation. Issues addressed included:
- Should the funicular be repaired when it is a continuing drain on the public
purse? Would the money not be better spent on new uplift and/or investment
on attractions elsewhere on Speyside?
- Given the question marks over the future of skiing in Scotland, why go
on ploughing money into infrastructure which was more relevant in years gone
by when a reduced, and less expensive, ski operation might make more sense?
- Ideas for zip wires, mountain coasters and mountain biking trails high
on the mountain are simply unacceptable in environmental terms; in addition
there is no guarantee that these would turn a profit.
- The time has come to think differently. The idea of developing a "national
centre for the mountain environment", as proposed by Bob Kinnaird when
he was CEO of the company, should be revisited.
The NGOs concerned agreed to formulate a different vision for the future of
the mountain and to take this forward together if possible.
While NEMT considers that the financial situation is a scandal, our over-riding
fear remains that developments will be approved which are visual blots at
the very edge of the heart of the massif and cause further ecological degradation.
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