Regular visitors to our house have become quite familiar with the pile of rocks in the back garden, writes Brain Wood, deputy convenor of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).
They are the legacy of the excavations dug to provide foundations for an extension which was built over six years ago now. My wife had wanted them removed at the time but I had been adamant that they should be kept, a decision which I have to admit I occasionally regret.
My intention had been, and still is, to use them to construct a dry stone wall in the garden. The delay has been mainly due to lack of confidence in my ability in the ancient craft but also in my uncertainty over a real plan for the garden and a vision of what it should eventually look like. Other family members have their views. The garden, after all, belongs as much to them as it does to me and everyone has their own ideas of what should be done and how the garden should be shaped and developed over the next few years. The process of consultation and negotiation, I have found, takes diplomacy and time and has to be handled carefully.
And so it is in the national park. Ever since I joined the board I have regularly heard the mantra from our Chief Executive: “Remember we are the Cairngorms National Park Authority, we are not the National Park!” In other words, the CNPA does not own the park. The park is owned by the nation and, in particular, by those who live in it. The CNPA has to devise a plan of action for the development of the park but in accordance with the stated aims of the park and the wishes of all those who have an interest in the park – a tall order indeed!
We are now embarking on the process of drawing up the next National Park Plan, which will take us through until 2017, and also compiling the Local Development Plan which looks in detail at how development should be handled on a more local basis. We want to hear from as many people as possible so that we can be sure that our vision for the park for the next five years is genuinely shared by the people in the park. We want to be confident that we have a plan which has identified the correct priorities and best addresses the needs of all our communities.
The formal consultation process opens on Monday (September 19) and closes on Friday, December 9. Throughout that time, there will be numerous opportunities to get involved and to discuss issues with CNPA Board members either through your community council meetings or by coming along to specially convened local engagement events. Each household will receive a summary questionnaire to gather your views and full details will be available from the National Park website at www.cairngorms.co.uk. So get involved and tell us what you think and how you would like life to be in your national park.
And as for my pile of rocks, well the consultation period has now closed and everyone has had the chance to put in their tuppenceworth. All I have to do now is get on and build the wall, safe in the knowledge that everyone has had their say, and that there will be no serious criticism or objection to it. Hmm, I wonder!