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Planning consent is given for the repair of Cairngorm funicular


By Gavin Musgrove

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The green light has been given to plans for the repair work of the Cairngorm funicular railway which has been out of action since Autumn 2018 on safety grounds.

Members of the Cairngorms National Park Authority's planning committee unanimously approved the application by resort owners Highlands and Islands Enterprise this morning in a meeting held by teleconference because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

There had been some vociferous objections to the work on planning grounds and also over the timing of the work and whether repairing the mountain railway would be in the best interests of snowsports enthusiasts, Cairngorm Mountain and the wider local economy.

But CNPA planning officer Stephanie Wade re-iterated from the outset of the meeting that the application was only to be judged on the merits of the development proposed and its impact on the surrounding area.

The £20 million funicular has been out of action since September 2018 because of concerns over the integrity of the concrete pillars and bearings supporting the two kilometre track.

The proposed works to the viaduct will involve the installation of reinforcing props and concrete bases to around half of the existing support piers.

Planners also stressed at the meeting that ensuring this work was fit for purpose was a matter for other regulatory authorities governing railways and subject to separate application to the appropriate bodies.

Local CNPA committee member Willie McKenna hailed the go-ahead as a 'wise decision'.

There was an hour of detailing and deliberating the application including issues over potential damage to access tracks and their reinstatement and the plan to repair the funicular being put in place prior to the outcome of a masterplan on the future of Cairngorm Mountain.

An HIE spokesman said they were very pleased to have gained planning approval for the engineering works.

He said: "The park authority’s decision is great news for Cairngorm and for the future of the local economy, which relies on a strong tourism sector.

“We do need to be clear, however, that the final decision on whether to proceed with these works will depend on the outcomes of a detailed options appraisal and business case for Cairngorm Mountain.

“Progress with these aspects has been affected by Covid-19, but we hope to be ready to put recommendations to the board of HIE and the Scottish Government in the summer.

“If the business case and options appraisal support reinstatement and are approved, we would clearly want to start work on the mountainside as quickly as possible.”

A total of 13 objections to the application had been lodged by the public and groups including the North East Mountain Trust, Mountaineering Scotland, Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group and Cairngorms Campaign.

The BASC group and former CNPA planning committee David Fallows had made objections at the meeting itself which were read out by the park authority's chief planning officer Gavin Miles. Likewise HIE had provided a statement in support of the application which was also also read out by Mr Miles to members and watching members of the public.

More on this story in the next Strathy.


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