SLDC 'treating Windermere as a cash cow' claim operators as price increases due to come in (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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SLDC 'treating Windermere as a cash cow' claim operators as price increases due to come in
WINDERMERE users are calling on South Lakeland District Council to invest more of the £1 million-plus it charges from the lake every year.
SLDC income from Windermere is to top £1.1 million for the first time in 2014/15 after the Lib Dem run authority agreed a hike in fees and charges totalling £70,000.
One senior tourism operator accused it of ‘milking Windermere like a cow’ but the authority says it is investing in the lake and that the revenue generated from it helps prevent council tax rises and funds services.
Boat owners needing moorings will have to pay more from April as will tourism businesses and private householders whose jetties ‘encroach’ on bed of the lake, which is owned by SLDC.
The authority said it spends £434,000 providing Lake services every year including the Ferry Nab slipway and boathouse, public jetties, maintaining navigation hazard marks, and the Lake Wardens.
This year it expects to make a total of £1,157,000 from fees and charges.
Carole Shaw, chairs the Windermere Lake User Forum, which represents sailors, paddlecraft, outdoor activity centres and marinas on the lake.
Mrs Shaw spoke out against the increases at the council’s Lake Administration Committee, which backed the rises.
She told councillors the proposed increases could have ‘negative repercussions’ on local business.
“We would like to see some investment going back into the lake,” said Mrs Shaw. “They are taking more again this year and we cannot seem to get movement to improve the facilities.
“If we want to make this a world class visitor attraction then there needs to be better integrated management between SLDC and the Lake District National Park Authority.”
She added: “Moorings are going up by two per cent which means anyone who has a concrete block on the bed of the lake with a white buoy attached to it by a chain to allow them to moor their boat, is already charged around £600 to £800 a year.”
Council records shows that permanent moorings on Windermere fell last year - from a high of 861 back in 2010, to just 777 in 2013.
The forum’s call was backed by Nigel Wilkinson, director of South Lakeland’s largest tourism enterprise, Windermere Lake Cruises.
“If SLDC reinvested more of what generated from the lake in terms of enhancing services, then perhaps people would have more sympathy,” said Mr Wilkinson.
“In a time where consumers are feeling the squeeze on disposal income, above RPI (Retail Price Index) increases for encroachment are not helpful - especially to those who do not want to pass that on in the prices they charge.”
And Jonathan Denby, a hotel owner and president of the Lakes Hospitality Association which represents over 500 tourism businesses said the price increases were 'depressing'.
“They have to give us more back,” said Mr Denby. “What we are unfortunately seeing is a deterioration of tourism-related things the council is involved in. It’s more difficult to park, car parking charges are high, the signage is in a state and our roads are in a poor condition. It’s depressing to hear of tourism and Windermere being treated as a cow to be milked.”
Officers have warned that a risk of increasing fees could mean they go ‘beyond a level that the majority of users find acceptable and user levels fall.’
The cost of private encroachment rises from £22.88 to £24.71 per sq metre, while commercial encroachment rises from £41.60 to £44.93 psqm - an eight per cent rise.
There will also be a two per cent increase on moorings and winter boat storage.
Visitors to the lake needing parking permits or those parking all day when launching boats, will also have to dig deeper. Annual parking permits for Ferry Nab will go up from 145 to £150.
David Sykes, SLDC Director People and Places said because financial support from government was reducing, raising revenue was ‘vital’ to support services and ‘ease the burden’ for council taxpayers.
SLDC expects to agree a freeze in the slice it takes from the council tax when it sets its budget in February.
And Mr Sykes said the authority was not just taking from the lake but putting money back in.
He said: “We will work with partners to continue to enhance facilities for lake users. That includes enabling new waterbus jetties at Bark Barn and Wray Castle, as part of the Go Lakes Travel programme.
“The council will take on the maintenance and management of the Bark Barn jetty, a major new project to improve access to the western shore. It is making a £200,000-grant towards the Windermere Steamboat Museum redevelopment.
“We have also budgeted £250,000 towards improving the lake shore experience at Waterhead. At Ferry Nab the council is considering options for bringing forward redevelopment of the site, including new public jetties, moorings and facilities for lake-users.”
He added: “The council has a duty to achieve best value from its assets.”
Steve Gaskell, park management lead for the Lake District National Park, said it spent £137,000 on providing a Lake Patrol team and £52,000 administering the boat registration scheme and had two car parks at Waterhead and Beech Hill.
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