CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a zip wire attraction in the Lake District that are predicted to attract 50,000 visitors a year have been given the green light.

Members of the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) development control committee narrowly voted in favour of revised proposals from applicant Burlington Slate Ltd and preferred operator Zip World for the Elterwater Quarry Experience.

Three members of the committee voted in favour of the proposals and three against with additional weight being given to the chairman’s vote in granting the application with conditions.

Speaking after the meeting CEO of Zip World, Andrew Hudson said: “We are pleased the committee has awarded consent to our proposals for Elterwater Quarry.

“We recognise the role we can play in celebrating and preserving this unique part of the Lake District’s heritage and look forward to working with local communities and stakeholders to demonstrate how we will operate this educational experience in a sensitive and sympathetic manner.”

The site is currently a working quarry operated by Burlington Stone and it is located south-west of the village of Elterwater.

The project aims to allow visitors to explore parts of the cavern that had been previously inaccessible for a ‘heritage-based adventure experience’.

Plans include installing platforms in the caves at points of interest. Visitors will travel from one platform to another via zipline.

The plans were previously rejected by the development control committee in September 2023 after members went against planning officers’ recommendations to approve it due to concerns over traffic.

Representative from Zip World, Will Ryan told the committee the revised scheme has an ‘enhanced travel plan and ticketing strategy’ which ensures that visitor numbers will be 'well- managed at all times'.

Mr Ryan stated the business has a ‘track record’ of managing visitor movements in a ‘sympathetic way’ and in implementing travel plans.

“We believe these proposals will produce a valuable responsibly operated educational and heritage asset that will help to preserve the valuable heritage of the Langdale Valley and also trigger high value inward investment into the Lake District in a low-profile manner”, he added.

The Westmorland Gazette: The Zip wire apparatus The Zip wire apparatus (Image: Newsquest)

The amended plans include a travel plan which encourages people to walk, cycle and use public transport to reach the site.

Proposals include providing an improved no. 516 bus service or operating a private Zip World shuttle bus from Brockhole. Zip World would also financially reward customers that have used non-car travel to make all or part of their journey to the experience through ticket pricing.

According to a report prepared for the committee the applicant states in the peak summer season there could be 98 two way vehicle movements a day

However, some members of the committee were concerned about a lack of details in the travel plan.

Committee member Peter Walter stated in the information before the committee there is ‘no information’ on the frequency of the shuttle bus or information regarding the difference in price of going via sustainable transport instead of driving.

Mr Walter said: “I don’t think this travel plan is credible or can give us any significant confidence that the 100 cars a day that are proposed will not simply end up driving to Elterwater and parking on the common.

“I think in the absence of credible measures to significantly reduce the impact on residents, visitors and the landscape of 100 cars a day, I think this is not a credible travel plan and that damage will still occur”, he added.

On the travel plan, a report by LDNPA planning officers stated: “It has been demonstrated that the site can accommodate visitors to it and that measures proposed to promote and increase travel to the site using more sustainable modes of transport are sufficiently robust and achievable.

“The development would not result in harm as a result in increase in activity as a result of travel.”

More than 200 objections have been lodged against the proposals including representations from landscape charity Friends of the Lake District and the Lakes Parish Council.

The charity said the proposed development was ‘not appropriate’ for the location.

The charity say: “Even if the Travel Plan were realistic and successful, the proposals would, at best, cause slightly less additional harm than they would otherwise.

“It will not avoid additional harm and will still result in a negative position in terms of traffic, vehicle movements and parking compared to the current baseline.”

“Proposals must be seen in the bigger picture. If they can’t, won’t or don’t contribute to resolving the major, growing and recognised problem of traffic in the Lake District and/or will make it worse, then they should not go ahead”, the objection adds.

Friends of the Lake District held a protest in March against the revised proposals in which the group say around 100 people gathered to express their opposition to the scheme.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an advisory body to UNESCO, requested the application be halted and that further tourism proposals are suspended altogether until an interpretation strategy for the entire world heritage site is prepared.

However, in the report prepared for the committee the LDNPA state: “Such a moratorium is inconsistent with the legal framework of the planning system and is outside the scope of this application.”

ICOMOS, in response to the previous plans, voiced concern the proposals would turn the quarry into a ‘theme park’.

Seven letters of support were also received including a representation from Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society who said the proposals were ‘likely to preserve’ the historical perspective of the slate quarrying industry.

The LDNPA has included conditions on the application such as the submission of a heritage and educational interpretation strategy.

Among other conditions include limiting the number of people using the cavern explorer route to 294 per day.

Members of the development control committee for the LDNPA approved the application with conditions on May 1 at Murley Moss in Kendal.