A PARISH councillor has hit out at plans to widen a Lake District footpath, saying the area is being opened up to ‘dangerous cyclists’.

Lakes Parish councillor Paul Truelove has slammed a decision to lay down a ‘wheelchair-friendly’ route through Penny Rock Wood, Grasmere, saying it will put pedestrians and disabled users at risk.

“Cyclists are fine in smallish numbers, but in Grasmere we get a lot of groups coming along, cycling where people walk,” he said. “On a slope there’s the temptation for people to go fast. Then it becomes dangerous. Opening up the footpath isn’t for cyclists — but I fear that’s who will use it.”

The plans were unanimously approved by the Lake District National Park Authority’s development control committee.

The authority itself put in the application to improve the surface of the footpath, widen it from 1.5m to 2m and install two new ‘zig zag’ sections of path to reduce the gradient on the steepest parts.

Friends of the Lake District gave its approval to the plans, saying the new path would increase access for both cyclists and disabled people.

But members of the Lakes Parish Council voted unanimously against the plans, saying it would be ‘a misuse of the natural environment’ and will ‘defile Penny Rock’s natural beauty’.

“They’re taking away from what’s a very, very attractive landscape at the minute,” said Coun Truelove.

Last month LDNPA planners also put in an application to rebuild a footbridge at White Moss, which will see the existing steps replaced with ramps. This, they said, will facilitate access for pedestrians with prams, wheelchairs, and, subject to the path being upgraded to bridleway status, bicycles.

However, at the development control meeting members agreed cyclists will only be able to use the Penny Rock Wood route if it is elevated to bridleway status, which will be determined at a later date.

“This scheme will bring about demonstrable improvements to the local rights of way network, providing a safe off-road pedestrian and cyclist alternative to the busy and at time fast, A591, A-road,” they said.