Clear up at Cairngorm or sabotage?

August 28, 2017 Nick Kempe 6 comments
The first tower above the Ciste carpark appears to have been in good condition and perfectly usable but McGowan’s have chopped through the legs making unusable.

Following my post on the destruction going on at Cairngorm (see here) parkswatch has been sent more photos which show that HIE and Natural Retreats appear to have deliberately destroying infrastructure at Cairngorm that could have been re-used.

Its worth repeating that there has been no consultation on this from either HIE or Natural Retreats and neither organisation has made public, let alone consulted on, a plan for how Cairngorm should be managed. Instead, in full knowledge that local and skiing interests had been looking at an alternative plan for Coire na Ciste which involved restoring the Coire na Ciste chairlift, HIE and Natural Retreats are destroying infrastructure that could have been re-used.   A community buyout  of Cairngorm would have fundamentally challenged the position of HIE, as landowners and Natural Retreats, who lease the land.  Its hard to avoid the conclusion that both HIE and Natural Retreats are trying to make a community operated alternative as difficult as possible.


HIE then has a reserve line of defence to protect its empire as it holds the purse strings and would be key to funding a community effort.  A conflict of interest, if anything was.


Natural Retreats has received a lot of criticism about what is going on at Cairngorm on social media and as a result their Facebook Page (see here) issued a post on Saturday directing people to an HIE news release issued early August (see here).  It looks like an attempt to shift the blame to HIE.   While the News Release does say:   “Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has awarded a contract to Aviemore based civil and environmental engineering firm, McGowan Limited”  the signs on site tell a different story:

Since Natural Retreats are named as the client they must have some responsibility for the work being undertaken by McGowan.    It therefore looks as if both HIE and Natural Retreats are in this together, jointly responsible for the destruction.


In the FOI material published in my last post, there is a statement from HIE that once a tender was conducted the costs would be known and funding then sought.  That was in May.  I have searched the Scotland Contracts portal, where all public contracts are supposed to be advertised, and cannot find any tender from HIE for the works at Cairngorm.   HIE therefore need to explain who actually appointed McGowan to do this work, how this was done and why they decided to do so.


Meantime, Natural Retreats appears to have provided the public with no information about the removal of lift infrastructure or the clearup – for example there is nothing on the Behind the Scenes section of the Cairngorm Mountain website which is supposed to provide an insight into what is going on at Cairngorm.  They have however held a drop-in consultation and provided some information on the proposed dry ski slope at Coire Cas.

Its worth comparing the colour of the slope with that which was contained in the plans obtained under Freedom of Information (see here).  Its has been toned down considerably, in an attempt to magic away its impact on the landscape.

What the dry ski slope consultation shows is that Natural Retreats only consult the public or inform people what is going on when they  have to – in this case the consultation will have been driven by the planning system which requires developers to engage the public before submitting any application.   Its to tick a box and it is likely the intention of Natural Retreats was to submit a planning application for the dry ski slope, funded by HIE, fairly soon.


That I think may now be derailed by what is going on at Cairngorm.   If you want to understand just how far HIE and Natural Retreats have alienated skiers its worth reading the comments on the Cairngorm Mountain Facebook Post (see here).  Skiers don’t see a dry ski slope as being any compensation for the continued removal of much of the lift and other skiing infrastructure and are increasingly angry.  I hope they tell our politicians that Cairngorm needs both an alternative plan and  a change of ownership and management.

6 Comments on “Clear up at Cairngorm or sabotage?

  1. You’re right to complain about the secrecy and unaccountability of recent developments, but it is also true that no alternative business-plan has been produced. A ‘community’ (whatever that means) buyout is not a real possibility, is it? And even if if were, how could any alternative plan for Coire na Ciste be sustained?

    1. Actually a business plan for the re-development of Coire na Ciste has been produced and it shows,, quite prudently, that Coire na Ciste would be self sustainable. The ‘Community’ in this case, means the people who reside within the PH22 Postcode District and a Community Right to Buy bid is presently being seriously considered.

  2. Total vandalism by MR. They should be held to account over this. Would be interesting to see the response from Snowsport Scotland and British Ski and Snowboard.

  3. as I’ve said on Facebook pages and It would parkswatch is hint g at the same thing -What is the ulterior motive behind this demolition and what would seem to be desecration of the area ?

  4. There are other concerned commentators as this link shows:

    The proof of the pudding will be in the outcome of the works. If HIE did award the contract then use of the Public Contracts Scotland portal is not obligatory, but there is an expectation that all Scottish contracting authorities should do so. Similarly if Natural Retreats has awarded the contract (but is being funded by HIE) it would normally be the case that HIE should require Natural Retreats to tender the contract transparently and competitively. In either case, there should be a HIE decision record outlining the process and the reasons behind it, including why the (usable) infrastructure is being removed and, if HIE awarded the contract, why it deemed it unnecessary to use it. Although the value of the works is less than the level that requires a publication of the opportunity in the Official Journal of the EU, general procurement principles (e.g. of transparency) would still apply.

  5. There is no justification for despoiling the mountain and creating completely unnecessary environmental damage. This is the outcome when no planning consent is required and the contractors concern is restricted to their fee. The same contractor created considerable environmental damage during work that was done at the Sheiling tow in 2015 and should never have been allowed back on the hill, in my view. It will be of considerable interest to find out exactly what was done by HIE that led to the appointment of this business.
    Meanwhile HIE stand idly on the sidelines despite having been asked to stop the works…quite shameful. Fergus Ewing MSP and Roseanna Cunningham MSP should be intervening because the public agency responsible is very obviously not up to the job.

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