A PLANNING application has been submitted for a 'heritage tourism attraction' at Elterwater Quarry following an extensive and controversial consultation process.

The Holker Group released ambitious plans in June 2022 at the start of the consultation proposing an 'adventure tourism experience' at the quarry, which included a high-ropes course and a 'toboggan-style' coaster to allow guests and visitors to explore the historic site.

The scale of the plan garnered vociferous opposition from conservation charities, councillors and locals.

A petition was set up opposing the proposal which gained more than 75,000 signatures.

The main concern was that the national park would be turned into a ‘theme park’ according to Zip Off Langdale, the campaign group that started the petition.

A formal application has now been submitted to the Lake District National Park Authority Planning Authority by the Holker Group to develop the quarry, which is owned by Burlington Stone.

In the planning statement submitted as part of the application, the attraction has been dubbed the 'Elterwater Experience', and consists of three main elements with the exclusion of the 'coaster' element.

The statement says: "In response to the feedback and responding to the issues raised, Burlington Stone and its development partners revised their initial draft thoughts, and have created a proposal on a significantly reduced scale."

The first element outlined is the 'Cavern Explorer', about which the statement says: "The Cavern Explorer allows visitors to explore the existing slate extraction caverns.

"Visitors will be able to traverse a network of fixed routes, fixed to the cavern walls, to explore the principal upper cavern and the smaller lower cavern.

"The cavern experience will provide an intimate underground journey, showcasing the special qualities of the cavern faces.

"In the cavern, participants start at the top of the incline, then make their way down to the first viewing platform.

"The activity then includes a series of steel staircases, steel platforms, and gravity-driven routes which traverse the caverns.

The Westmorland Gazette: A plan of the 'Cavern Explorer' routeA plan of the 'Cavern Explorer' route (Image: Burlington Stone)

"Participants are attached via a harness to an overhead safety system fixed to the cavern walls and roof.

"The route allows participants to travel safely from point to point throughout the cavern.

"The safety system is tried and tested, currently operates in a number of venues, and can be used by children and adults.

"It is anticipated that the route would last approximately one hour, be challenging, stimulating, and unique, giving participants an understanding of the realities of mineral extraction within the Lake District National Park."

The Westmorland Gazette: Visitors will be able to extensively explore undergroundVisitors will be able to extensively explore underground (Image: Burlington Stone)

The second aspect of the proposal is the 'Quarryman’s Viewpoint' which would give non-participants 'panoramic views over the quarry'.

The third main aspect would be the Visitor Centre, about which the statement says: "The former saw-shed and former showroom building along with the immediate outside areas will be re-purposed for use as part of the attraction.

"This will include a visitor reception and check-in, kit and de-kit area, eBike charging, limited food/beverage facilities, and changing facilities."

The existing access to the site would be used with the creation of 35 visitor parking spaces.

READ MORE: Councillors and company clash over quarry tourist attraction

A letter dated January 10 from Holker Group to conservation charity Friends of the Lake District, who opposed the scale of the original plan, said: "The proposed 'Cavern Explorer' experience, which will be the only attraction available, will be almost entirely enclosed within the previously unseen cavern, revealing unique vantage points to visitors along the route.

"Overall, we believe these plans will allow the local community to preserve and take pride in its quarrying history, drawing heavily on the site's existing assets without undue impact."

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: "The Lake District is well-known nationally as a leading destination, and post-pandemic, it is essential that new opportunities to maintain the long-term sustainability of our county's tourism industry are fully explored - all in the context of the Lake District National Park's Local Plan.

"As the county's Destination Management Organisation, we trust in the planning process to ensure a decision that balances all these important factors."