Aviemore, with the River Spey on the left. Photo:  Anne Burgess CC-BY-SA-2.0

Aviemore, with the River Spey on the left. Photo: Anne Burgess CC-BY-SA-2.0

Walkers and mountaineers are being asked to dip into their pockets to support a £50,000 campaign against the building of almost 2,000 new houses in a national park.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland is asking outdoor enthusiasts to donate funds for a legal challenge to the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s local plan.

The council, which represents hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers north of the border, says the plan goes against Scottish Government officials’ advice to reject plans for, among other things, the building of 1,500 houses on land just 10km from the summit of Cairn Gorm.

The MCofS is supporting charity the Cairngorms Campaign in a legal challenge to the national park authority’s 2010 local plan.

A spokesperson for the mountaineering council said the initiative for change in the Cairngorms national park increasingly responds to the interests of commercial developers, in spite of the CNPA’s primary aim being to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area.

The authority has also included plans for 450 houses at three sites within the national park, in addition to the 1,500 at the An Camas Mòr location on the east bank of the River Spey, opposite Aviemore.

The legal challenge follows a public inquiry which was held into the local plan, including the An Camas Mòr development. The two Scottish Government Reporters said: ‘the housing land requirement is overly generous in any context, let alone that set by the aims of the national park’ and ‘we conclude that the rationale for the calculation of the housing requirement is unconvincing’. But the mountaineering council said the CNPA chose to ignore the observations.

The appeal for funds is being made by the Cairngorms Campaign, the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and the Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group, to challenge the CNPA’s policies. A hearing is due to take place in the Court of Session in January 2012.

MCofS president Brian Linington said: “The MCofS is supporting this fundraising campaign because we believe that the CNPA decision in respect of the plan and specifically these developments is fundamentally flawed.

“The legal challenge is based on six grounds which argue that the CNPA acted unlawfully or against the findings of the Public Inquiry Reporters.

“At a time when Scotland’s mountains and the Cairngorms national park itself are under increasing pressure from wind farms and other developments, a new town in the middle of the Cairngorms national park, with housing which will no doubt be unaffordable by most people’s standards, is an unwarranted impact on the amenity of one of our national scenic areas.”

The three organisations taking legal action are small charities with modest resources. The estimated cost of the court case is £50,000 and requires substantial additional fundraising. The charities believe there are many individuals and organisations that care deeply for the integrity of the Cairngorms and who will support their appeal.

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