An application will soon be going before the planning committee of the Lake District National Park authority to build a paying tourist attraction on an iconic Lakeland fell between the unspoilt valleys of Buttermere and Borrowdale.
The controversial proposal for a zip wire running from near the top of 648m Fleetwith Pike to the Honister Slate Mine visitor centre on Honister Hause would see the installation of a 1.2km steel cable supported on pillars, with a landing platform and gantry-mounted fall arrest system in the visitor centre car park.
We will not be promoting similar developments elsewhere and in no way do we see this as the thin end of a planning wedgeMine owner Mark Weir, previously in the news for claiming that October 2008's rain-lashed Original Mountain Marathon came 'within inches of turning the Lake District mountains into a morgue' was unavailable for comment, but is understood to have commissioned a noise impact assessment, and to be seeking public support for his application. After centuries of mining activity Honister Slate Mine now survives by combining commercial extraction with tourism, offering guided tours and England's only via ferrata, a cable-protected scramble through derelict workings on Honister Crag. The proposed new ride is intended to link with the existing via ferrata, and has been dubbed the Lancaster Aerial Flight after a cable system used here until the 1950s to transport slate from the mine.
Ellis Butcher of Cumbria Tourism
Ellis Butcher of Cumbria Tourism supports Weir's vision. 'In Cumbria's tourism-heavy economy we have to balance essential landscape preservation with a diversified tourism offering. Since industry at this site dates back hundreds of years the Honister plan is something of a special case, and its visual impact would be less severe than some fear. We will not be promoting similar developments elsewhere and in no way do we see this as the thin end of a planning wedge'. Supporters hope the zip wire will boost out-of-season visits, helping to bolster year-round employment in an area with few jobs.
But landscape conservation charity Friends of the Lake District objects to the plan. 'This area of the National Park is internationally recognised for its outstanding landscape and tranquillity' says FLD's Planning Officer Richard Pearse. 'Thousands of visitors ...come to appreciate just this wildness and remoteness. The zip wire would fundamentally change the area.' In addition to the visual impact concerns have been raised about noise levels, and increased traffic on a narrow road with limited public transport. 'This is just the wrong place for a new visitor attraction that would be aiming to attract large numbers of people' continues Pearse. 'The National Park exists to protect the fells from development so that people can enjoy their amazing landscapes. We are concerned not only about the impact of the development itself if it were approved, but also the precedent this would set for future development in the area.'
The planners' verdict is expected later this year.
quote planning reference number 7/2010/2092:
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