COMMUNITIES in Scotland’s first national park are to see a housebuilding boom in a bid to attract more young people into the area.
The move is part of a five-year plan aimed at regenerating the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to increase visitor numbers as well as boosting the local population.
The masterplan reveals concerns about population decline and has outlined moves to attract and retained "skilled working age and young people" within the National Park with the help of a "better range of housing options".
The plan designed by National Park Authority and approved by Scottish ministers aims to build 375 new homes over the next five years with one-in-four to be 'affordable'.
The authority warned that drops of population within "economically active age groups" was creating an "increasingly imbalanced age profile".
The authority said: "We need to make focused efforts to ensure there are more opportunities for younger people and those of working age, to remain and move into the National Park.
"We also need more homes in the National Park to sustain and support our rural economy, as well as meeting communities' housing needs."
The National Park is home to some of the most iconic wildlife and landscapes in Scotland and attracts four million visitors a year from across the world.
Its famous lochs, forests, mountains and heritage are an historic part of the Scottish culture and 67 sites across the park are designated for their special nature conservation value But the authority warned that its popularity has made it a hotspot for commuter, retirement, second and holiday homes, making it one of the most expensive areas in the country to buy a house.
It means that nearly three in four homes being sold were going to people from outside the National Park.
The authority said that that made access to housing "extremely difficult" for many local people, younger households and those not able to afford full market value for a home.
"While our local development plan identifies that an increase in housing in the park is required to address this, there needs to be a continued focus on funding for rural housing and support for infrastructure costs which are higher within the rural areas," the plan said.
The National Park Partnership Plan was launched by environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who said it was "great" to see the ambition to try and tackle issues that are key to young people, "by providing skills and training opportunities, as well as creating more affordable housing within the park itself".
She added: "That’s particularly important during 2018 – the Year of Young People."
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park convener James Stuart said: “The plan sets out how we can tackle some really key issues.
“This raises the level of ambition the park and its partners share. We can deliver huge benefits for Scotland.”
In 2011, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park had a population of 17,752, a drop of 4.1 per cent from 2001, which is in contrast to the population rise in Scotland of 4.6% over the same period.