"UNPRECEDENTED" numbers of coaches in Bowness and Windermere over the summer led to a "chaotic" situation in both Lake District towns, it has been claimed.

According to Julie Hartley, clerk at Windermere Town Council, coaches were parked "all over the place", including up on pavements.

"In some instances, if an emergency vehicle needed to get through, they would have been impeded by coaches," she said.

Now there are calls for a new coach park to help cope with the increasing numbers of visitors flocking to the World Heritage Site.

Mrs Hartley said: "The coaches are just big and unwieldy. So when they are parked-up they just cause hazards if they aren't parked safely."

She added: "They were just kind of parking wherever they could - it's not the coach drivers' fault, they were just doing whatever they could."

Mrs Hartley believes that an increased number of international visitors travelling by coach was responsible for the "unprecedented" numbers of vehicles in the area this summer.

Adrian Faulkner, a Bowness resident and secretary of the Windermere and Bowness Chamber of Commerce, took the photo of the coach parked on the A5074 Lake Road, blocking access to North Terrace in Bowness. He said the coach driver was there for 15 to 20 minutes and caused "havoc" along the road, with tailbacks up to Windermere Police Station.

Mr Faulkner added he had noticed a distinct increase in the number of visitors to Bowness and Windermere both this summer and the one before.

"Some of the coaches are parked on blind corners, some of them are parked wherever the driver thinks he can get the people off," said Mr Faulkner. "We do not want the coach passengers turning away, but we'd like a bit more responsibility from the coach drivers as to how they deal with the situation."

Mr Faulkner described the coach situation over summer as "chaotic" and said that unless space for a "reasonably-sized coach park" could be found, then the problem was not going to be solved.

A local bed and breakfast owner, who did not wish to be named, said: "There is a problem when they're parked on Rayrigg Road, as it does obstruct the traffic, so traffic is having to stop to allow oncoming traffic to pass.

"Although it is an A-road, it isn't a very wide road, so if a coach parks, it has almost blocked one side of the road."

He added: "(The high number of coaches) is a good thing in that it's possibly reducing the number of cars coming into the Lake District.

"If it's not reducing the number of cars then it's bringing extra visitors into the Lake District.

"All of the people on these coaches are international visitors, so it's bringing international visitors into the area.

"So there are pros and cons. The con to it is is that there doesn't appear to be enough coach parking in Bowness."

Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, said: "I don't see it as a problem, I see it as an opportunity, the fact that coaches are coming to the area, which are the lifeblood of the economy.

"I think its a tremendous opportunity and we need to make sure as a community that there is ample opportunity for coach parking."

He added: "I think it's important that we recognise the benefits that visitors can bring, particularly if they are travelling sustainably to the area, and then moving around the area sustainably using public transport."

Windermere Civic Society has also received reports of coaches causing traffic and parking problems for other road and pavement users including those on foot trying to enjoy The Glebe.

A meeting was held to discuss the issue, and included representatives of Windermere Town Council, the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), the National Trust, Windermere Lake Cruises and South Lakeland District Council (SLDC).

An SLDC spokesperson said: "We have agreed that, for the council’s part, we will consider whether any of our car parks in the area could potentially accommodate some form of coach parking.’’

Emma Moody, the LDNPA's lead strategy adviser for recreation and sustainable transport, said: “Coach tours or group travel are an important part of the Lake District visitor economy.

"As large numbers of visitors can be accommodated on one vehicle they are also an efficient and sustainable way to travel.

"We will work with partners to ensure information is available, which advises which roads are suitable for these vehicles and details the availability of coach parking throughout the Lake District.

"Our local plan policies take account of the need for improved coach parking where there is high demand."