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Possible ban on starting fires in Cairngorms National Park to be considered

By Gavin Musgrove

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Trees scorched by fire in the Cairngorms National Park. Picture: Vicky Hilton.
Trees scorched by fire in the Cairngorms National Park. Picture: Vicky Hilton.

Members of the Cairngorms National Park Authority have agreed to carry out a public consultation on whether to introduce fire management byelaws into Badenoch and Strathspey.

The board meeting at its Grantown headquarters yesterday was presented with various options on what the restrictions covering the whole of the national park could include.

A public consultation is scheduled to be launched at the start of next year.

One of the possibilities is for a year-round fire management byelaw to restrict fires with certain exceptions.

A further proposal would be a time limited fire management byelaw which would only apply at times of high fire risk.

The third option is to not introduce any byelaws – remaining with the status quo – and instead continue to develop a 'robust communications and education programme'.

The CNPA is keen to hear from as many people, businesses and stakeholders on what they would like to see happen – or not happen.

The move follows huge concern in the Glenmore area from residents over the potential risk of fire in the surrounding forest caused by camp fires in and around the Loch Morlich.

Grant Moir, Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) chief executive, has already said that a large fire would be an 'ecological disaster' given the importances of the national park for some of the UK's most threatened species.

He said: “Wildfire risk is increasing in Scotland and climate modelling shows a predicted increase in drought periods and we need to consider ways to reduce the risk to people, nature and property in the national park.”

The CNPA intends to start the consultation in January and it will last for 10 weeks.

If the board later agrees with the introduction of a park-wide byelaw, it would require a further period of consultation, approval from the CNPA board and finally the go ahead from Scottish Government ministers.

CNPA convener Sandy Bremner said: “As a board we are very supportive of the authority’s proposals to consult with residents, land managers, visitors and various partner organisations on the possibility of fire management byelaws being introduced in the park.

"We must protect our landscapes, wildlife and communities from the risk of harm from fires so this is an important first step in that process.”

No byelaw would come into force in time for next summer due to the process involved.

Mr Moir explained: “If supported, it would be 2025 before any such byelaw could realistically be introduced.

"We need to consider what is the best option to provide long term safeguards with a growing risk profile around wildfires.

"No single approach will take away all of that risk but we need to look at all the options as we develop the overall integrated fire management plan for the national park.

"This consultation is part of looking at the options that are open to the park authority.”

Read more on the proposals here.

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