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.