PLANS to build a visitors’ centre at a Lake District beauty spot have come under fire from countryside campaign groups calling it ‘an intrusion into a wild landscape’.
Landowners Lowther Estates have submitted a planning application to create a ‘welcome hub’ and ‘hierarchy of routes’ at White Moss Common – next to the A591 between Rydal and Grasmere.
The centre – an extension of the public toilets – would provide information, ref-reshments and possibly cycle hire to the 140,000 people who use the site every year.
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But the plans have attracted criticism from Friends of the Lake District (FLD) and the Open Spaces Society (OSS), which have accused Lowther Estates of wanting to ‘urbanise’ and ‘over-develop’ a rural area.
Kate Ashbrook, from the OSS, said: “We see no need for the development of visitor facilities in this attractive, quiet location.
“It appears to be primarily a money-earner for the estate.”
OSS has also criticised the plan for not mentioning the fact that White Moss is registered common land.
Ms Ashbrook said: “Any works here require, in addition to planning consent, the approval of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.”
FLD says people currently visit White Moss Common ‘to enjoy the natural environment’.
Its planning officer, Kate Willshaw, said the development would be ‘totally inappropriate’.
“The planning application uses the term ‘wild land’ but then proposes to put a retail development on it.
“People know White Moss and they love going there – at the moment it’s very informal and these plans, including the ‘hierarchy of routes’ would make it very formalised.
“The designs are what you would expect in a country park rather than a wild area.”
The land was previously managed by the National Trust and Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), but a new generation of the Lowther family – which owns Lowther Estates – recently took it back under their own management.
The planning documents say the welcome hub and hierarchy of routes – which will include increased signage – will ‘improve the visitor experience’ and ‘increase the revenue from the site to allow increased management presence’.
Public consultation on the plans closes on August 31 – LDNPA planners said they were aiming to have a decision by September 2.
Estate Surveyor for Lowther Estates Andrew Fox said: “We feel that a welcome hub will allow the area to be enjoyed by people much more by distributing information to them.
“A management presence on site will also help us manage any issues with things like car parking and litter.”