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New higher social housing target set for Cairngorms National Park

By Gavin Musgrove

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Willie McKenna does not believe that the housing targets agreed in park blueprint are ambitious enough.
Willie McKenna does not believe that the housing targets agreed in park blueprint are ambitious enough.

A target has been set that 75 per cent of new housing will be for social rental, mid-market rental or other affordable categories in the Cairngorms National Park by 2030.

This housing stock should also remain as affordable in perpetuity by 2030.

As part of this at least 200 new affordable and mid-market rent homes will be delivered through local authority strategic housing investment plans and affordable housing delivery programmes by 2027.

Members of the park authority's board agreed these and a host of other actions and targets covering areas as diverse as species recovery and farming to the Real Living Wage and fire management in the 45-page National Park Partnership Plan 2022-27.

The document setting out how all those with a responsibility for the national park will co-ordinate their work to tackle the most important issue will now be submitted to Scottish Ministers for final approval.

The introduction put the latest five-year plan into context stating: "The publishing of this plan coincides with the most acute cost-of-living crisis in a generation and this – coupled with the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis – requires us to take a more radical approach to ensure the people and the economy of the Cairngorms National Park thrives both now and in the future."

But there were claims at the latest full board meeting that the affordable housing measures did not go far enough.

Tackling this problem will be vital in achieving a host of the other targets.

One priority is to increase the proportion of young people and working age people in the national park relative to the total resident population increases between 2020 and 2045.

Board member Peter Argyle said that the CNPA was limited as to what it could do to tackle the shortage of affordable homes for young people and others in a 'dysfunctional housing market'.

He said: "It has to be recognised that we can not do everything. I think what we have here is radical and there is some really good stuff in the plan not least the 75 per cent target.

"But if we go too far developers will say 'Why will we go there?' and we'll end up with nothing because people will not want to develop.

"So it is funding that balance between being completely radical and frightening people away and not doing enough and leaving people in difficulties.

"I think what is proposed here is a good compromise."

But fellow CNPA board member Willie McKenna felt that the park authority could have been more radical.

"I am still not satisfied. Peter and I have been here a long time trying to solve this problem...," he said.

"There are young people who can not even get on the housing list for social rented properties and they all have good jobs. They have no chance.

"They are pointing the finger at anybody especially me in Aviemore saying: 'What are you doing for us?'.

"I try to explain but they say 'We don't have that time – you have been talking about this for 25 years. Give us a break. Do something'.

He said it was imperative locally for more land to be released and said he did not believe that construction firms would not build in the national park if more ambitious targets had been set.

There has been strong growth in the overall population of the national park over the past 20 years which is now home to 18,000 people and just over 8,000 people are employed in the area.

The park plan stressed a focus is on the need to increase the working-age population to ensure that local services can be supported.

It states: "Young people are a key part of a sustainable population but require education, training, development, employment and housing in order to remain in or indeed migrate to the national park."

Actions by 2027 to attain this include developing a green skills and youth apprentice project and job creation through the Heritage Horizons: Cairngorms 2030 programme.

Another agreed target is for a maximum of 15 per cent of all housing stock in the national park to be second homes, vacant or short-term let properties by 2040.

Since last April, builders in the Cairngorms National Park’s main housing hotspots have had to provide 45 per cent affordable homes in their developments which is much more than nearly everywhere else in Scotland.

The figure was previously 25 per cent for everywhere other than housing hotspots in Aviemore, Braemar, Ballater and Blair Atholl where the 45 per cent allocation has been in place for six years.

New 45 per cent affordable housing quota comes into force in Cairngorms National Park

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