Deadline for objecting extended - BMC objects to proposed zipwire development at Thirlmere

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 12/12/2017

A Planning Application has recently been submitted for a zipwire which could impact greatly on the landscape character and tranquillity of Thirlmere in the Lake District. The BMC is asking its members to write to the planning authority opposing these plans. Deadline for submissions is 12th January 2018.

A Planning Application has recently been submitted by TreeTop Trek for the ‘Thirlmere Activity Hub’ to include 8 zip wires along 2 routes running across the lake at Thirlmere and an 18km cycleway.  These proposals were discussed at the BMC Lake District area meeting where it was felt, unanimously, that it would have a significant detrimental effect on the character and beauty of the landscape (which is of national importance and has been awarded environmental protections accordingly).

As outlined in the BMC Landscape Charter, experiencing ‘landscape’ is an intrinsic reason why our members go climbing and hill walking. The range of landscapes they regard as valuable is broad, from wilder environments of semi-natural habitat, including mountains, uplands, moors and sea cliffs, to outcrops bordering arable land and disused quarries, which can be in urban and rural areas. The BMC wants these landscapes to be managed and protected for future generations so they remain sanctuaries for quiet and sustainable recreation.

The Specific Grounds for the BMC objecting includes:

1.            Inconsistent with National Park statutory purposes
The BMC believe that when considering planning applications, the National Park Authority (NPA) must be mindful of the two statutory purposes and it is currently difficult to see how the proposed zip wire will contribute to these.  Whilst we do not object to the proposed cycle route, which is already largely in place, the BMC feel that the zip wires will not enhance the visitors understanding of the Park’s special qualities, rather it may instil the participant with the idea that National Parks are outdoor theme parks

 2.           Impact on road traffic
The BMC believes that the proposed development will result in unacceptable levels of traffic on the local highway network and we would like to see the Traffic Statement be re-assessed so that it looks at the ‘worst case’ scenario as well as (as currently presented) the ‘best case scenario’.

3.            Impacts upon the landscape character and tranquility of Thirlmere, particularly on the Western shore
Despite the area around Thirlmere being predominantly ‘manmade’ in character  (shaped by many years of sheep farming, quarrying and mining) this is celebrated by the fact that the area gained World Heritage Site status in 2017 due to its Cultural (i.e. manmade) Landscape.

The many valleys of the Lake District have their own distinctive features and Thirlmere has its own character.  The valley is central to the Lake District and one is able to access and ascend Helvellyn on the east of the lake via the A591 with ease.  On the west side of the lake there is a tranquillity, which many are surprised to find in such a central location of the Lake District; here walks up onto the Central Fells can be enjoyed.

The launch point from Swirls Car Park is also on the edge of open access land which has been mapped as such for its landscape characteristics.

4.            The issue of precedent
If this development was approved it would open up the whole of the Lake District National Park and other National Parks to such types of development.  While there are already zip wires in the Lake District (Brockhole and Go-Ape), these are relatively small, well hidden and are not on the same scale envisaged at Thirlmere. 

5.            Impact on World Heritage Site Outstanding Universal Value
The issue of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) was fundamental in the Lake District obtaining its World Heritage Site status as a result of its ‘Cultural Landscape’.  A zip wire constructed through this landscape fundamentally undermines and threatens this status.

6.            Introducing commercial development to an area of tranquillity
Despite its central location, the valley is in a quiet location with minimal commercial activities and those that do exist are only small scale.  The development of a zip wire, with its attendant buildings would change all of that and anticipation of hundreds of thousands of visitors.

7.            Sandford Principle
Our objection requests that the planning application by Tree Tops be turned down on the basis of all the above evidence but also on the basis of the 'Sandford Principle' which is clearly laid down in statute i.e.; "Where irreconcilable conflicts exist between conservation and public enjoyment, then conservation interest should take priority".

8.            Concern at impeding flight paths of aircraft
Permission will also need to be sought from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and it may be necessary to highlight the presence of the zip wire by markers across the lake, which could be illuminated at night.  This would seem totally incompatible within this landscape and in the middle of a National Park.  

The BMC has objected to the proposals based on the reasons outlined above. We would also encourage our members to do the same by writing to the planning authority. More information on the proposals can be found here.

You can directly email the Planning Authority using our email template and sending this to planning@lakedistrict.gov.uk (please download, add your name and if you are able to, personalise the letter).

You can also send your comments by post to the Lake District National Park Authority, Murley Moss, Kendal, LA9 7RL. The deadline for comments to be submitted is: 12th January 2018.

Please make sure you quote the application reference number on any representations.

Planning Reference: 7/2017/2298
Proposal: Thirlmere Activity Hub: Development of a zipwire attraction, a series of improvements to the round Thirlmere cycleway, improvements to car parks, access paths and the extension and development of an existing toilet block to provide reception, changing area and toilet facility
Location: Land at Thirlmere, St John's Castlerigg and Wythburn



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1) Anonymous User
12/12/2017
We had already objected to zip wires across Thirlmere, on some of the grounds you identfy in this excellent
news item. Here's hoping many BMC members do the same.
On the Friends of the Lake District website there is a blog by a FLD member who has seen the detrimental effects of zip wires on the Tara Gorge in Montenegro, another World Heritage site. Not good!
2) Anonymous
15/12/2017
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
3) Anonymous User
15/12/2017
Well done BMC -excellent article.
4) Anonymous
20/12/2017
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
5) Anonymous
20/12/2017
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
6) Anonymous User
22/12/2017
This despoiling of the countryside for profit is greedy and selfish. Leave the Lakes alone.
7) Anonymous
25/12/2017
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
8) Anonymous User
05/01/2018
As a walker in the Lake District, I particularly value those places, such as the surroundings of Thirlmere, where I can enjoy the landscape and allow my mind to become meditative, without the intrusion of other people's recreational activities. The noise of motor traffic and shouting are especially disruptive to tranquillity. I am certain that the proposed zipwires over Thirlmere would create exactly that kind of disruption. They would also be visually harmful to the location. There is a real danger that misguided commercial developments such as this will seriously impair the qualities which attract sensitive and responsible visitors to the Lakes. I myself shall avoid Thirl;mere if the zipwires materialise there.

Incidentally, it is worth reminding ourselves that Thirlmere was the favourite lake of W.G. Collingwood. It features significantly in his novel 'Thorstein of the Mere: A Saga of the Northmen in Lakeland'.

Martin Haggerty
9) Anonymous User
07/01/2018
Thanks for this. I've got huge concerns regarding this - impact on Thirlmere and those using the Lakes, precedent it will set in the Lakes and beyond, the greed behind the zip wires (there's no altruism here), the fact that the zip wires will scar the area without regard for the area and the misinformation that has been spread in favour of proposals etc. People who do come will come only for the zip wire, for a quick (very expensive thrill) and without regard for the environment or the area. Locals and councillors have rejected the proposal at a council meeting wholeheartedly. As Terry Abraham says, stick it in West Cumbria where they need to boost tourism. Equally concerning is that some of the Lakeland organisations supporting this proposal have very close links to those making the decisions which gives potential for questionable conflicts of interest.
10) Anonymous User
07/01/2018
The lake and catchment area are owned by United Utilities.. Shareholders may wish to object to them also.
07/01/2018
Lets hope the wire is passed by ldnp and droll unintresting people dont get there way .i live and work in the lake district and the views of most people support it
12) Anonymous User
08/01/2018
I remember The planning board wanting the lake district to be the adventure capital of Europe, Unfortunately the present objections mean jobs, increased tourism and improvements to paths wont go ahead. Spent some time in North wales recently. Remembering the view from snowdon is the best in the whole country. North Wales has definitely beaten the lake district as adventure capital. There are two sites with ziplines and another site with forest activities including a forest coaster. The forest activities are hidden amongst the trees so are unobtrusive. The ziplines have used decimated industrialised areas and improved them. To my mind the pluses of this venture far outweigh the negatives. The planning groups definitely need to move with the times and provide what the majority wanr.
13) Anonymous User
11/01/2018
Why can't the people who want to see our beautiful fells walk. Up them what can you see zipping along on a wire go to an adventure playground where they can scream to their hearts content
14) Anonymous User
12/01/2018
A few years ago a similar application, for a zip wire at Honister, was refused, on environmental grounds.. Thirlmere is in a much more popular area of the Lake District so, if Honister was refused, what grounds can there be for allowing this application?
15) Anonymous User
12/01/2018
There is your answer, if you want a zip wire then go to Wales otherwise come to the lake distict for peace and tranquillity with unrivalled views. I live here and the opposition is huge.

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