£6m project to preserve Ben Nevis

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The Independent Online

The increasing number of tourists flocking to Ben Nevis is threatening to ruin one of Britain's most outstanding areas of natural beauty and special scientific interest.

The increasing number of tourists flocking to Ben Nevis is threatening to ruin one of Britain's most outstanding areas of natural beauty and special scientific interest.

Concern that the mountain, near Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, could suffer lasting environmental damage has prompted a £6m project to safeguard the region. Conservationists have said many of the paths leading to Britain's highest mountain, along the banks of the river Nevis and through the surrounding glen, are in danger of being worn away unless action is taken to preserve access for future generations.

After a two-year consultation period, a partnership has been formed to manage the area, which incorporates a designated site of special scientific Interest (SSSI). The Nevis Strategy has drawn up a programme designed to care for the environment and maximise benefits for the local economy.

Greg Mudge of Scottish Natural Heritage said: "The area is heavily used by visitors, tourists, mountaineers and others, but unfortunately it is an area which is also environmentally fragile, especially towards the higher tops of the mountains. There needs to be improved parking, information, and facilities for visitors so that environmental and economic needs can go hand in hand."

Environmentalists hope that much of the financing for the Nevis Strategy, which is expected to take five years to complete, will come from European grants, National Lottery funds and various government and conservation bodies.

Rhona Brankin, Scottish deputy minister for Environment and Rural Development, said a plan was needed to safeguard the environment of the area for future generations.

The Nevis Strategy will be administered by organisations including the Highland Council, the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, local residents and landowners.

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