Con­fused de­vel­op­ment plan

Argyllshire Advertiser - - LETTERS -

Sir, Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil has re­cently pub­lished a con­sul­ta­tion on the next Lo­cal De­vel­op­ment Plan which seeks to pro­mote a vast new na­tional park cov­er­ing Ar­gyll’s is­lands and ma­jor­ity of the west­ern se­aboard.

The coun­cil’s ra­tio­nale is to grow our tourism in­dus­try; the new park per­haps bring­ing a brand fo­cus to some of the UK’s finest land and seascapes, much of which is al­ready pro­tected within Na­tional Scenic Ar­eas.

While eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment to sus­tain our de­clin­ing work­ing pop­u­la­tion in ru­ral Ar­gyll is nec­es­sary and laudable, there are sig­nif­i­cant dan­gers in sur­ren­der­ing lo­cal con­trol of our com­mu­ni­ties to a new na­tional park au­thor­ity. The UK has 15 na­tional parks, and since 2002 part of Ar­gyll has been in­cor­po­rated into the Lomond and Trossachs Na­tional Park.

Un­der­pin­ning all these parks is the ‘Sand­ford Prin­ci­ple’: ‘Na­tional park au­thor­i­ties can do much to rec­on­cile pub­lic en­joy­ment with the preser­va­tion of nat­u­ral beauty by good plan­ning and man­age­ment, and the main em­pha­sis must con­tinue to be on this ap­proach wher­ever pos­si­ble. But even so there will be sit­u­a­tions where the two pur­poses are ir­rec­on­cil­able... Where this hap­pens, pri­or­ity must be given to the con­ser­va­tion of nat­u­ral beauty.’

What this means in prac­tise is that the con­ser­va­tion of land­scape trumps all other con­sid­er­a­tions, re­gard­less of any so­cio-eco­nomic fac­tors. At worst, such a pol­icy leads to a ‘Bri­gadoon’ de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion of eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity. At best it makes busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing tourism, much harder and more ex­pen­sive within the park area and its sur­round­ings.

Es­sen­tially the cre­ation of this na­tional park would re­move dis­cre­tion, bal­ance and lo­cal ac­count­abil­ity from the plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment process.

A nar­row agenda of con­ser­va­tion risks frus­trat­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and job cre­ation - fur­ther ac­cel­er­at­ing ru­ral de­pop­u­la­tion.

Re­gard­less of the safe­guards the coun­cil might in­tro­duce in the hope that it could sweeten the na­tional park pill, the Sand­ford Prin­ci­ple is rightly not op­tional, and its ap­pli­ca­tion across a much wider area is not the an­swer to ru­ral Ar­gyll’s eco­nomic and pop­u­la­tion woes.

The coun­cil should choose its de­vel­op­ment tools very care­fully.

Ir­re­spec­tive of mo­tive, the mis­guided and in­ap­pro­pri­ate ap­pli­ca­tion of a new na­tional park to pro­mote tourism poses a real dan­ger to the so­cio-eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity of Ar­gyll’s most frag­ile ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

James F Lith­gow, Orm­sary

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