THE National Trust has been given the green light to place a handrail on an iconic Ambleside landmark.

The trust says it will allow safe access to a first floor exhibition telling the story of 18th century Bridge House.

But Lakes Parish Council has dubbed the plans ‘sacrilege’ and they have also attracted criticism from Ambleside Civic Trust.

Following a consultation amended plans went before the Lake District National Park Authority development control committee.

A grab rail was omitted and proposed railings on the first floor were replaced with a removeable timber box. There will still however be a vertical handrail near the stairs.

Fiona Sparrow, vice chairman of Lakes Parish Council, said councillors had not had a chance to view the amended proposal.

“To change the appearance seems perverse and to drill into the fabric cannot be good,” she said.

“If the concern is for health and safety it could be dealt with by other means such as leaflets and verbal warnings.”

But Fiona Green, who is leading the project for the trust, said there would only ever be one member of staff so that would not be possible.

“Conservation and preservation is key but we also want to share our buildings with others,” she said.

“We have been sympathetic and have modified our designs. The handrail will not only give visitors access to a wider space but enable us to tell a better story about the many lives of Bridge House and its place in Ambleside.”

The plans, which raised no objections from English Heritage or the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, were passed eight votes to two by committee members.

Built in 1723 by the Braithwaite family, Grade One listed Bridge House has been used as a counting house, an apple shop, a tea room, a weaving shop, a cobblers, a chair makers and, at one time, a home to a family of eight.

Straddling Stock Beck, thousands of tourists have flocked from all over the world to see it while artists John Ruskin, William Turner and Kurt Schwitters have drawn inspiration from its quirkiness.