They were studying our National Parks and how we plan for long distance and cycling routes. They are from the area on both sides of the Norwegian / Swedish border – and near to Oslo.
I gave the history of the national parks legislation, explaining that it was one of our first acts of the new Scottish Parliament and that for me having been a planner working in Central Regional Council it had been a real privilege to be the Minister responsible for steering the bill through parliament. I commented that our parks were now more than 10 years old and that while I found it difficult to imagine us going back to life before them, there were always debates about planning decisions in the parks.
For the future I said that I hoped that we would take forward the idea of a coastal and marine national park which with our fantastic coastal areas was our missing link in terms of national parks. It was interesting to hear their take on our national parks. They liked our focus on trying to protect and enhance our beautiful landscape while at the same time factoring in the needs of local residents for housing and jobs that would complement that overriding aim of the park.
They also found a great deal to admire in our approach to national and long distance walking and cycle routes. I found that fascinating given that the perspective in Scotland is that we think have a lot to learn from Denmark about their planning for walking and cycling in their towns and cities.
The delegation was also very interested in how Planning Aid works and felt there was much to learn from our best practice. As the delegation left we agreed to keep networking and I was given a warm invitation to visit the Ytre Hvaler National Marine Park in Norway. Having googled the park I’ve discovered that Sweden also has the Kosterhavet Marine National Park – so I’ll be following up the offer to see what we can learn about the benefits of their marine national parks.