HIE response to Parkswatchscotland on the destruction at Cairngorm – by Keith Bryers

Keith Bryers, Head of Property and Infrastructure at Highlands and Island Enterprise, has responded to my post on why the destruction at Cairngorm happened http://parkswatchscotland.co.uk/2016/06/23/destruction-cairngorm-happened/.   I welcome the fact Mr Bryers is prepared to explain HIE’s position which is as follows:

“This project was funded by HIE as part of a package of works to enhance the skiing infrastructure following competitive tender which led to the award of a lease to Cairngorm Mountain Ltd (CML) in 2014. The works contracts for the Shieling ski-tow replacement were awarded and managed by the ski area operator, CML, who obtained Planning Permission in 2014.

As part of that planning approval to replace the Shieling ski-tow with a new tow, ground works were undertaken to remodel embankments created by the bulldozing of ski pistes in the 1960s. The work has created a ground profile more suited to the new tow and modern ski operations and, once reinstatement is complete, this will result in a more natural-looking profile and appearance.

Rather than simply seed the former lift track, which was used to move materials and components of the new tow, avoiding further disturbance due to continual tracking, a permanent maintenance route is being formalised on the same alignment. This was kept within the 30m x 300m agreed work site of the 2014 planning approval. It makes operational sense that CML wish to retain this track as it will allow routine maintenance to the new tow and others nearby. It will also allow movement of snow cannons to take place without having to drive across vegetation in these areas and will minimise ground disturbance to the surrounding ski pistes in the future. The access track verges are currently being revegetated, reducing the width, installing cross drains and creating a central vegetated strip.

Approval has previously been obtained by CML from SEPA to create bridged culverts at the Allt a’Choire Chais watercourse adjacent to the base of the ski-tow. This is part of on-going environmental improvement works and, when completed, combined with the new ski-tow, will increase safety, drainage, and provide better contours for skiers as a replacement for the previous timber bridge crossings.

The area of embankment that was re-profiled is along the Lower Loop path/ track which also originated in the 1960s to create a track and ski piste. This area is used as the primary descent route for skiers to Base level. Late in the process of installing the new lift it became apparent that the area around the base of the lift needed to be raised and the material from the bank was used to create the required ground levels. This has provided a wider, safer piste whilst removing the snow-making earthworks and steel pipes from the 1960s. CNPA have advised CML that a retrospective planning application is required to document the levels and ground works associated with the regrading of part of the bank along the Lower Loop Path and this application has been submitted by CML .

The project remains a ‘work-in-progress’ and is not complete; CML and their contractors are well experienced in ground restoration work. This experience is being applied to this project and adjacent areas of ground disturbed during underground cable renewal and ski-tow remediation works. Restoration at this altitude and with the prevailing ground conditions takes at least 2 to 3 years to have full effect but we believe the success of the restoration works undertaken during the funicular project demonstrates it will be successful.

The Lease provides that CML are responsible for maintenance, including that of the ground. HIE is satisfied that the measures currently being taken by CML will address the issues raised in your article.”

2 Comments on “HIE response to Parkswatchscotland on the destruction at Cairngorm – by Keith Bryers

  1. We are being asked to believe that the newly created access track [for which there is no planning consent] is required to allow ease of access for routine maintenance!….to a rope tow that has a pylon and each end and nothing in between. Should we now expect to see bulldozed access tracks along the side of the Fiacaill Ridge Poma, The Daylodge Poma, The M1 Poma etc. Readers might be interested to know how often snow cannons were moved into this area during last season……that would be none…..and we might expect them to be moved using a Kassbohrer….across snow covered ground. The fact that the operator chose to create an unnecessary access track here is no justification for retaining it. In my view, the CNPA Planning Department should refuse a retrospective planning application and order the removal of the track and the re-instatement of the ground. Objections to the planning application should be lodged with the CNPA Planning Department.
    The reprofiling of the embankment was also done without any planning consent. The embankment vegetation was destroyed in the process…….the difference between the embankment that remains as it was by comparison to the reprofiled section is very revealing. No vegetation was removed and stored prior to taking out materials so there was nothing to put back in place once the reprofiling had been done. The contractor then destroyed ground at the other side of the path by using a machine to rip out large chunks of ground/vegetation which were then pressed into the bank. The mess is quite evident today. All of this was done simply because the contractor required materials to build up the ground at the new rope tow……when they had already buried materials that came out of the Sheiling Rope Tow area…quite extraordinarily incompetent. All done on the cheap and we are left with a situation where HIE are satisfied with what is being done. The fact is that it is extremely unsatisfactory.

  2. Retrospective Planning Application.
    Without a planning application no one has had the opportunity to object on environmental or any other grounds possibly meaning retrospective planning permission will be granted to cover the works already undertaken without challenge as the damage cannot be undone.
    Not a very satisfactory way of managing planning in one of our most sensitive mountain environments where the majority of conservationalists would concur that reinstatement is not a viable option and only through the methods of non disturbance as your article describes will the environmental destruction be avoided. The images seem to show serious devastation already.
    The failure to understand the nature of the environment also leads me to believe that CMLs claimed expertise in ground restoration works may not cut it here, I do hope I’m wrong.

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