Planners at the Lake District National Park Authority have granted conditional permission for a 1km-long zip wire at Honister Slate Mine, despite concerns from conservationists.
The controversial scheme had twice before been turned down, in 2011 and 2012, but a committee of planning officers today voted 7–3 in its favour, citing the fact that the area is already an industrial zone and a visitor attraction. As well as paying customers, it is claimed that the zip line will be used to transport slate from an inaccessible location.
But not everyone is happy with the decision. In a statement, Friends of the Lake District, who have campaigned for many years against the project, said:
"Friends of the Lake District considers there to be little justification for the Lake District National Park Authority Members ignoring the advice of its Planning Officer and agreeing to this development. We consider this to be a highly sensitive location and that this development will have a detrimental impact on the landscape character, tranquillity and biodiversity of the area.
"Whilst the two proposed new uses of the wire are commendable in terms of supporting the existing business use of the site and providing a new experience in the Lake District which is accessible for all, in our opinion, they do not outweigh the detrimental impacts of the scheme.
"We consider the zip wire to be an inappropriate addition to the offering which will result in unacceptable detrimental landscape impacts."
Campaigners are concerned that the scheme conflicts with the main purpose of the National Park, the so-called Sandford Principle which is supposed to favour conservation over development where the two are in conflict.
The visual impact on the surrounding high fell ladscape, and on the peace and quiet of the area, are also too high, say objectors. Worries have also been aired about the impact on biodiversity, the status of open access land, and the inevitable increase in local traffic.
In contrast, Honister Slate Mine sound an upbeat tone:
"Whoop whoop" they said in a statement.
Jan Wilkinson, Co-Owner of Honister, continued:
"This is a big day for us, the Aerial Flight development is vital to the survival of Honister. It's important because of what it represents, in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cultural Landscape. It is deeply connected to the heritage of the mine, whilst also being innovative and forward looking. By supporting the two interconnected sides of our business, we can ensure there is a resilient business model that will stand the test of time.
"We need to make sure we are investing in the future to ensure the next generation can live, work and bring up their families in the area.
We are committed to opening up the landscape for all to enjoy. In these plans we have included a second section of wire with accessible features to enable people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility, the chance to experience the thrill of outdoor adventure.
"We have a role as guardians of this special landscape and I believe that by creating life enhancing experiences for everyone to enjoy at any age, we are helping to develop a love and understanding of the special qualities of the national park we are privileged to call home.
"The combination of supporting tourism, education and industry to provide a long-lasting benefit for people living, working and visiting the Lake District is why we have battled for over a decade to get the Aerial Flight approved."