A SWISS-style cable car could be built to carry tourists between Lake District hotspots, a top national park director believes.

The idea would be to ‘lift’ visitors clear of traffic jams on the narrow country lanes around Hawkshead, Hilltop and the Sawreys.

Foot passengers from the Windermere Ferry would be able to take an aerial trip between Far Sawrey, Hawkshead and possibly on to Coniston.


Steve Ratcliffe, director of sustainable development at the LDNPA, says it is an example of the ‘radical ideas’ it wants to hear about car dependence and future visitors.

Initial reaction has ranged from ‘pie in the sky’ to supporters welcoming the idea as a step forward for the park.

Another cable-car could transport passengers from Windermere railway station down to Bowness to relieve traffic on the A5074 and give visitors a wow factor on their arrival, said Mr Ratcliffe, who is one of the park’s top three directors and chairman of the World Heritage Status Project Management Group.

He has raised the idea at meetings with business groups in Hawkshead and Coniston.

He told the Gazette: “I want communities to put aside the next few years and start to think longer term about where we want to go and what the big questions are. It is not intended to be controversial and I want to stimulate discussion and get people thinking outside of the box because from there we may bring forward much smaller ideas.”

He added: “This idea could be 20 years away, 50 years or potentially never because technology changes. We might actually see a revolution in electric cars and we have experimented with this already in Great Langdale with great success.”

“I don’t want people to be suddenly concerned about all of this - that is not the point - it’s trying to stimulate debate. How can this area benefit from this potential influx of international visitors which are traditionally higher-spending?”

Any cable-car would need to be funded and managed by a commercial investor, he said.

The idea comes as the park prepares for a decision on World Heritage Status in early 2017.

It would bring a fresh influx of high-spending visitors wanting to see cultural highlights like Beatrix Potter’s former home at Hilltop as well as Hawkshead - areas which already come under huge strain from traffic and parking.

The LDNPA is seeking feedback on a 115-page draft management plan on behalf of its 25-member partnership.

Covering 2015-2020, it also has to consider how the park would ‘manage’ visitors if the WHS bid is successful.

International visitor numbers are forecast to increase by one per cent and lead to a £20 million annual spending boost.

But WHS visitors would have high expectations of a complete ‘world class’ experience - including how they get around, it says.

‘Visitor movement’ has been identified as a key priority in the plan. There are fears traffic jams on narrow lanes or struggling to find somewhere to park, would corrode their experience of a World Heritage site, it says.

Cable cars are a feature at other World Heritage sites like Masada in Israel, and are commonplace in Switzerland.

Of the 15.5 million current annual visitors to the park every year - an estimated 10 million or 86% rely on cars.

Mrs Anne Brodie, of Claife Parish Council, conceded the area suffered from traffic problems but described the cable-car idea as ‘ridiculous’.

Jeff Carroll, Coniston Parish Council, chairman said: “I can’t see how it positively effects the aims of World Heritage Status in sofar as people are supposed to be coming for the beautiful views. While you could get that from a cable-car, what about the people down below?”

Bowness councillor David Williams, leader of the Tories on South Lakeland District Council, called it ‘pie-in-the-sky’. “Is the traffic really that bad?” he asked.

“This is the National Park Authority that turned down a zip wire at Honister Slate Mine.”

Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, backed the idea.

“Many of the world’s top destinations have provided access to mountains and rugged landscapes by cable car. They can also reduce reliance on car-based tourism and could be an exciting part of an enhanced sustainable transport network.”

Mr Stephens said ‘immense care’ would be needed in the siting of any proposed development.”

Coniston businesswoman Sue Holland, who chairs the town’s business forum, said opinion was split.

Maria Whitehead MBE, who heads up Hawkshead Relish, sees the merits but believes money would be better spent in Hawkshead. “If someone has really young children, has mobility issues or disabilities - the chance of seeing the area from sky like that would be a very unique experience,” she said.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change said innovative ideas are needed. “We need to be thinking openly, and without dogma, in searching for ways which will enable future visitors to enjoy the Lake District whilst reducing pollution of both the local and global environment.”

Judith Moore, policy officer at Friends of the Lake District, said: ‘We need better public transport that can move lots of people for lots of reasons, not just deal with tourism. Things need to be sustainable and for the long term not just “radical” ideas which catch some people’s imagination!’