The Planning Method Statement required “All fuelling and oils to be carried out in appropriate areas” and stated this would be “outside top station garage, where all fuelling and proper storage of fuel is to be kept”. The point of this was to prevent an oil spill on the plateau. Natural Retreats and the contractors have ignored the requirement.
Natural Retreats planning application claimed that “A site cordon for access will be established to control vehicle movement and prevent damage to vegetation” and required the “Contractor to park up any machinery on existing track”. Again, this is clearly not happening.
These and other breaches of planning permission have been reported to Highland Council, who have at least visited the site, but so far no other action has been taken. Both Highland Council and Cairngorms National Park Authority appear to be in a complete state of paralysis when it comes to using their enforcement powers.
“Empowering planning to deliver great places” is the title of the Scottish Government’s independent review of the planning system published earlier this year. It’s quite clear about the need for planning authorities to use their enforcement powers:
Cairngorm is a great mountain, the Cairngorm ski area should be a great place and its time that CNPA and Highland Council recognised that Natural Retreats cannot be trusted to deliver that great place and they need to start exercising a far greater degree of control over what is happening there. If they want advice on this perhaps they should ring Petra Biberbach, who was on the three member panel that produced “Empowering Planning” and is Chair of the Planning Committee at the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority. I would hope she agrees that how Natural Retreats is operating is just the sort of thing that brings the planning system into disrepute.
Planning Authorities though also need to ensure the right specfications are agreed in the first place. The Ptarmigan area has been overrun with vehicles during the works on the West Wall poma. This presents a real contrast to the days when vehicle access to the hill was closely controlled and the access track to the top station was still called the “emergency access track”.
The last Estate Management Plan also provided for “An annual tour of inspection of the Ski Area will take place in May to which SNH and other interested parties will be invited. Works requiring restoration will be reported to Cairngorm Mountain Limited and others, as appropriate, for action.” The planning authorities don’t need to re-invent the wheel, they simply need to say that they expect Natural Retreats to abide by former environmental standards and then enforce these.