Lake District Gondola Plan Downplayed

© Dan Bailey

A plan to build a cable car in Whinlatter Forest has been amended by the Lake District National Park Authority. The controversial idea, which met widespread opposition both locally and nationally, was presented as part of the park's draft Local Plan last year. But following public consultation, it has now been dropped.

The prospect of a gondola at Whinlatter has receded, but not been entirely ruled out  © Dan Bailey
The prospect of a gondola at Whinlatter has receded, but not been entirely ruled out
© Dan Bailey

The cable car would have run from the village of Thornthwaite up to the Whinlatter Forest visitor centre.

Fierce opposition from residents and organisations such as Friends of the Lake District (FLD) and the Open Spaces Society centred on the possible threat to the area's landscape, tranquillity and World Heritage status, and highlighted the inevitable pressure on local infrastructure implied by a plan that seemed intent on increasing tourism footfall at the expense of conservation.

"Visitor numbers to the park have been increasing steadily. We had 19 million in the park last year and we sometimes struggle to cope with these" Douglas Chalmers, chief executive of FLD, said in 2018.

"When the park became a World Heritage Site [...] UNESCO actually raised concerns over the impacts of tourism.

"Of course we want to encourage visitors to enjoy the unique benefits of the park, but surely, until we have adopted successful methods of moving people around by sustainable methods, the congestion we experience on our roads at peak times should not be made worse."

In response to concerns, the Park Authority has now rowed back on the cable car proposal, amending its wording to make clear that there is no officially preferred option for the site, and removing specific reference to a gondola. However the possibility of a developer applying to build something similar in future has been kept open.

Dawn Over Bassenthwaite  © Lawman
Dawn Over Bassenthwaite
© Lawman

Another idea suggested in 2018, to develop 'Showcase Areas' at key tourist hotspots in Windermere, Keswick and Ullswater, has also been abandoned, after criticism that these locations are already quite busy enough.

"We are pleased that the park authority has dropped the disastrous notion of the Showcase Areas, which we feared would bring an intensification of tourism to the more remote and tranquil parts of the Lake District. We are also pleased that the proposed gondola appears to have been put on hold. We shall keep a close eye on the effects of this plan as we still fear that the Lake District will be threatened with inappropriate development and tourism pressure" said Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society.

However consultees did on balance support various measures, including the idea that new tourism projects and car parks should be required to make a financial contribution towards infrastructure and sustainable travel. There was also a positive response to a proposal to require developers to pay to improve biodiversity. And an increase in local house building found favour too.

Steve Ratcliffe, Director of Sustainable Development at the Lake District National Park said:

"Our draft Local Plan is ambitious and provides some fantastic opportunities for the future of the National Park to become an even better place to live, work and enjoy.

"It's important all developments contribute in a positive way to this special place and our local communities. The Plan sets a framework for managing complex challenges, including climate change, community vibrancy, and helping to manage visitor pressures felt in certain areas of the Park. Our innovative new policies on farm diversification, car parking, biodiversity and securing contributions from developers, are just a few new ways to do this and will help us make a positive impact, both now and for the next 15 years."

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