LAKE District National Park bosses have been accused of promoting tourism ahead of protecting the landscape.

At a meeting at park headquarters in Kendal yesterday, member Tony Lywood launched a withering attack on the leadership of the authority he only recently joined.

It follows a vote by Keswick Town Council of ‘no confidence’ in the LDNPA over a decision to use asphalt to surface a four-mile stretch of the storm-damaged Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Trail.

At a meeting at Murley Moss attended by park chief executive Richard Leafe and director Kerry Powell, Cllr Lywood accused the ‘leadership’ of not listening to the views of local people.

Cllr Lywood, a member of Keswick Town Council and Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Copeland, said the consultation over the path was ‘inadequate’ and some increasingly felt they lived in the ‘Lake District National Theme Park’.

Cllr Lywood asked: “How can this body give more than a cursory consideration to zip wires over Thirlmere, the proliferation of 4x4s in Little Langdale, a Gondola up to Whinlatter and now a wide-strip of scarring tarmac beneath Blencathra?”

“Has the pendulum now swung so much in favour of commercial and corporate interests that we are now in very grave danger of damaging the landscape that visitors come to enjoy?”

As for the trail, he called for ‘more sympathetic wheelchair-accessible natural alternatives’ such as that used on the Monsal Trail in the Peak District.

In response, interim park chairman Peter Allen MBE, pointed out that it had worked very closely with the public ever since the trail was wrecked during Storm Desmond.

This included engagement with local people, residents and visitors; 2,300 responses to a user survey; public meetings, drop-in sessions and exhibitions, he said.

Furthermore, dedicated web pages had been created to explain what was happening coupled with regular updates in the media and a newsletter sent directly to more than 2,000 interested subscribers, Mr Allen added.

The decision to allow ‘tarmac’ was made in September 2018 by its planning committee – a process which allowed people to comment and the proposal was endorsed by Keswick Town Council at the time, he said.

The £7.9 million project is funded through European Union programmes and contributions from Highways England, among others.

Mr Allen suggested that re-considering the surface type now could put that funding in jeopardy. He said: “Highways England has definitive standards that require bound surfaces for this type of route and given the user needs and preferences research, we and HE, both agreed that a bound surface was the most appropriate proposed solution.”

Mr Lywood said afterwards: “The leadership is determined to push ahead with tarmac from Keswick to Threlkeld. There is a bunker mentality which we in Keswick do not agree with.”