Proposals for an artificial ski slope at CairnGorm were resoundingly thrown out by the Cairngorm National Park Authority planning committee yesterday, against planners’ recommendations.
The decision was the latest blow to thos einvolved in the resort as they make plans to compensate for the funicular railway being out of action this season for safety reasons.
Operators Cairngorm Mountain Ltd, on behalf of leisure company Natural Retreats, had applied to install an L-shaped plastic slope to accommodate beginners and intermediate skiers.
Adam Gough, head of property at Natural Retreats, told the meeting that the slope was an important part of the company’s investment in the future of the centre.
He indirectly referred to calls by local businesses to invest urgently in the uplift infrastructure of CairnGorm.
He said: “We would like nothing more than to be able to invest in the infrastructure and improve the snow sports experience for everyone, but there has to be a long term process built on solid foundations.”
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
He also referred to the ongoing row over the closure of the funicular railway and its implications for the Strathspey community.
He said: “We are fully aware of the impact the mountain has on the businesses and communities in Aviemore and Badenoch & Strathspey.”
Highland councillor and local board member Carolyn Caddick, herself a keen skier and instructor, said it was the wrong development in the wrong location.
She said: “Experience tells me it will be tough to make it pay.”
Tessa Jones of Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group said it was a ‘text book example of unsustainable development in the wrong place’ requiring stripping huge amounts of peat from an valuable natural habitat.
Aviemore Business Association (ABA) secretary Alan Brattey said his members were overwhelmingly against the artificial slope, as ‘it’s the wrong slope in the wrong place for wrong reasons.’
He said: “The matting is to be a bright green not found in the landscape here.”
After the determination, Susan Smith, HIE’s Head of Business Development said: “While we appreciate this decision is not the outcome Cairngorm Mountain had hoped for, we are committed to working together to enhance CairnGorm and drive more sustainable tourism to the Badenoch and Strathspey area.”
She said a forthcoming report into the uplift infrastructure “will present a range of exciting options to guide future investment at this leading visitor attraction and snowsports centre.”
Mr Gough said: “We are naturally disappointed with this decision and will now take the time to evaluate all our options.”