POWERBOATERS bidding to race for two afternoons on Windermere have been blocked – sparking claims that the Lake District National Park Authority is acting ‘undemocratically’.
Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club applied to the LDNPA to lift the 10 knot speed limit on the lake for events in July and September, including its historic annual regatta and its Commodore’s Day.
It follows the success of last year’s events, which were agreed by the LDNPA and were the first exemptions to the speed limit since it came in back in 2005.
But the authority has told the club it was unlikely to win permission for the events because they did not meet a new park policy.
Drawn up by the authority last December, the policy states the speed limit will only be lifted for those events that the park considers ‘exceptional’ or ‘one-offs’.
The club has had to submit a fresh bid for consideration which has yet to be decided on, but says it feels pressured to create a ‘bigger event attracting more people’ – which goes against the club's original intention.
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Carole Shaw, head of the Windermere Lake User Forum, said: “All the club wants is two afternoons on the lake and if the National Park can’t hear that, then they are not being democratic.
“We were asked why not hold a national event on Windermere? But we really don’t think a national event is appropriate on Windermere, and we don’t think people would support it.”
Ms Shaw explained that feedback from the public following last year’s events saw 96 per cent support them which she said demonstrated a public appetite for the same again.
“But it seems to be a case of the National Park saying this is what we want - not what the bulk of the public say they want,” said Ms Shaw.
In order for last year’s event to go ahead, the Bowness-based club was required to open up its private club and grounds to the public and pay the costs of having Park rangers present during the events. Jason Dearden, managing director of Windermere Marina Village, said: “Last year the lake was vibrant and busy during these events, and I believe they bring something to the lake and the local economy.”
But a spokesperson for the National Park said it consulted on the policy for speed limit exemptions with 22 organisations including the Windermere Lake User Forum to make sure the criteria for exemptions and application evaluation process were clear to everyone.
The spokesperson said: "Exemption to the speed limit will be rare and exceptional. If granted the event or activity must provide positive benefits to the area and adhere to safety and environmental requirements without compromising other lake users.
"The applicant must also prove why their event or activity needs to take place on Windermere and cannot be accommodated elsewhere. The ability to grant exemptions is not about encouraging activities where the speed limit can, with permission, be exceeded; it’s about considering special exemption requests within a clear framework to ensure any activities would truly add value and are in-keeping with the lake environment.
"If an application meets the criteria we open it up to consultation for six weeks to help us to make an informed decision about – approving, approving with conditions or refusing the application.
"The management of the speed limit is at the centre of enabling Windermere to be enjoyed safely by a wider audience, while also protecting this precious natural asset."