A STRIKING 600-delegate convention and exhibition centre on the shores of Windermere looks set to get the go-ahead next week.
The glass-fronted complex, which would be the largest of its kind in the Lake District, would be built next to the A591 opposite the Low Wood Hotel.
But opponents are worried about increased traffic and Friends of the Lake District said the development would have a detrimental impact on the lake shore.
Described as being a ‘world-class visitor destination’, the £4million centre would also host concerts, exhibitions, dinners and product launches. It would create 35 new jobs and attract businesses from across the UK.
Filling a long-established need for a major conference centre in South Lakeland, it would also incorporate innovative ‘green’ features, including a ground source heat pump, and would be powered by hydro-electric.
Director of Low Wood owners English Lakes Hotels Tim Berry said: “We hope this iconic building will be a wonderful asset to South Lakeland, creating jobs and attracting business leaders and organisations from all over the country.
“If we are going to entice these people here then we really need to give them the ‘wow factor’ so they spread the word that the Lake District is a great place to come and do business.”
The Watersports Centre at Low Wood Bay would be demolished and relocated into nearby garages to make way for the centre, which English Lakes said would ‘blend sympathetically’ with its surroundings.
The company already has permission to build a conference centre at Low Wood Bay but is seeking fresh planning consent for the new modern design.
Derek Armstrong, chair of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said the centre would help attract firms looking to host corporate events in the Lake District from major cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.
“It’s a good idea and would get more businesses coming to view Cumbria,” said Mr Armstrong.
“You never know what these things are going to lead to. Businesses could come up, see what a good place it is and build a factory somewhere.”
Jonathan Denby, chairman of Lakes Hospitality Association, described the plan as ‘exciting’, adding: “Bold initiatives like this are just what the Lakes needs.”
Cumbria Tourism is supporting the scheme, saying the case for more conference facilities in the Lake District had been made in a series of studies.
But Friends of the Lake District has objected to the project, citing the ‘significant, adverse impact on the tranquil character of the lakeshore’.
The charity said the design was too ‘urban’ and added: “We object to the scale of the building and the resultant increase in activity, which are not sympathetic to the characteristics and sensitivities of the location.
“We have particular concerns over the visual impact of significant areas of glass fronting the lake, which are likely to reflect sunlight and generate light pollution.”
It is hoped some visitors would travel to the centre by boat, reducing traffic, but some people remain worried about safety.
The civic trusts of both Ambleside and Windermere have both objected because of the loss of a green field site for parking and concerns about the safety of pedestrians.
Lakes Parish Council said it was concerned about pedestrian safety and the impact of the increased traffic on the A591.
Cumbria Highways officials said the traffic plans drawn up were ‘adequate’.
Lake District National Park Authority planners have recommended that the scheme is delegated to the head of development to approve. Its report said the scheme could bring ‘many economic benefits’.A decision will be made on Wednesday.