Published: 07/09/2017 16:29 - Updated: 08/09/2017 15:57

Community bid launched to buy-out Cairngorm Estate

Written byGavin Musgrove

Cairngorm Estate, Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust LtdThose behind plans for a community buy-out bid of the Cairngorm Estate have said it was a stark choice between trying to take control of the resort or walking away and watching the ski operation suffer.

Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust Ltd announced earlier today that it is launching what would be Scotland's largest ever and most complex community buyout.

The first major hurdle is to gain support from more than 10 per cent of residents living in the PH22 Aviemore and Glenmore postcode in favour of the aim to take over the estate and its assets including the £20 million funicular railway.

Steering group spokesman Alan Brattey said: "Current operators Natural Retreats have had three years and three months and I don't think anyone has seen any evidence that they have the ability to run the hill business.

"We have reached the end of the road where we have not been able to enact an asset transfer to take over Coire na Ciste because there are barriers to us doing that as there is a tenant in place.

"So we are using the legislation which allows the community here to make a bid to buy the entire estate and decide what is done there within the planning constraints.

"The decision rests with the community here as to whether to take this bid forward. What no-one can accuse us of is a knee jerk reaction as we have taken months to reach this point.

"We have looked at the legislation, spoken to HIE and Natural Retreats to get a view on what they are doing and what the future holds, and we have come to the conclusion that we have been stymied at every turn for an asset transfer for example to take over Coire na Ciste.

"The only thing that is left to us is to walk away and have it continue the way it is or try to see if the community can buy the estate.

"A successful community buy-out bid means that the estate can be managed and the strategic direction of the business determined by the people it affects the most rather than have people who do not live or work in the area decide what the strategic direction is and have it fail as it has been."

Alan Brattey, Cairngorm Estate, Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust Ltd
Steering group spokesman Alan Brattey.

 

The steering group has acknowledged it would have to work with Natural Retreats who only signed a long term lease in May 2014.

Any asking price for the estate is still a very long way off and funding for the purchase would need to be raised.

Mr Brattey said: "There are sources of grant funding we would need to explore but we have not taken it that far yet.

"We can not ask the Big Lottery for example for funding until we have an agreement for the community buy-out but there are lots of options out there."

He added: "At this point it is impossible to say how much the estate would cost."

The legislation allows for up to 12 directors on the trust board – most from the PH22 but also some co-opted members. Those currently on-board would become interim directors and there would be elections if the buy-out bid progresses.

The steering group has said there must be a political will for the sale to happen. They said they have already had some encouragement in meetings with some Highlands and Islands MSPs.

Ex ski Olympian and Loch Insh Watersports businessman Andrew Freshwater, is backing the bid.

He said: "I will always have a soft spot for CairnGorm Mountain having had access to it from an early age.

"Having this allowed many local ski racers as well as others from Central Scotland to reach the highest levels in skiing representing shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world.

"However with the gradual shortening of the season and the chronic under-investment over the last few years its very hard to see how the current generation will ever get access to the facilities that we once had.

"The focus seems to have become making money and not providing a facility. The personalities that made it work have gone and been replaced by accountants. I think the future of a small ski area is to get personalities that care involved again.

"That's why I support any proposals that involve local businesses and the local people getting involved."

Updates on the community buy-out bid will be posted at www.facebook.com/AviemoreGlenmoreTrust

* More on this story in today's Strathy now on sale.

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