Dan Bailey gives us an update:
The future of a controversial proposal to build a zip wire on the flanks of Fleetwith Pike in the Lake District is unclear following the withdrawal on Tuesday 19th October of a planning application by local entrepreneur Mark Weir. The planned 1200m zip wire would augment a popular via ferrata already installed at the Honister Slate Mine visitor attraction. Local opinion has been divided on the issue, and the Lake District National Park Authority received 391 objections.
"The application was due to be considered by our next Development Control Committee on Wednesday 3 November" says Mick Casey of the Lake District National Park Authority. "But on Tuesday 19 October, the day before the committee agenda was due to be finalised, we received notice from the applicant that he was withdrawing his application. The reason given was to enable him and other interested parties (including ourselves) to give more consideration to the issues - of nature conservation and landscape impact - that seemed to be causing most of the objections."
Among the most vociferous objectors were conservation charity Friends of the Lake District, who argued against the zip wire on the grounds that it could negatively impact an area of the National Park recognised for its landscape and tranquillity. Friends' Planning Officer Richard Pearse greeted news of the withdrawal with "cautious optimism."
"Many share our view that the development would cause significant damage to an internationally important landscape. The proposal raises significant conflicts with the Lake District National Park Authority's planning policies... Hopefully this will be an end to the matter, but we will continue to monitor the situation, should the applicant decide to resubmit at some point in the future."
Meanwhile Natural England, the government's advisor on the natural environment, recommended that planners refuse the application due to "the damage that would be caused to the dry heath vegetation on the summit area by the construction and operation of the proposed 1200m zip wire [and] the impacts ...upon the enjoyment of the special qualities of the national park." Even with mitigation measures identified in a report in August, the environmental body suggests that the "residual impact would still be undesirable and the works themselves would have landscape implications."
In a further blow to the operation of the visitor attraction Natural England highlighted damage to rare species-rich habitats caused by work already carried out on a deviation of the existing via ferrata route and a zip wire at Bull Gill, the subject of a retrospective planning application. This passes through a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest on Honister Crag, one of the two best sites in England for mountain ledge vegetation.
"The via ferrata deviation was constructed without consent from Natural England which appears to have been a breach of the legislation protecting the SSSI. It was constructed contrary to an assurance provided to us by the applicant that he would not carry out any further works on the site without consultation with Natural England. Natural England is currently pursuing enforcement action under the SSSI legislation."
It is understood that mine owner Mark Weir intends to work with interested parties to mitigate the environmental impact of the zip wire proposal, with a view to re-submitting a revised application early next year.