A STRIKING minor episode in Buttermere over Christmas has made me wonder whether a tourist tax, used widely and successfully across Europe, might provide a solution to current constraints on Cumbria County Council’s winter roads budget.

On December 28 at around 9am an anxious visitor-couple wanted to drive out of Buttermere. The road up the bank and down the road to Lorton was iced up and dodgy, though locals had driven in earlier.

The couple called the AA, who came remarkably quickly and then a gritter appeared and proceeded to grit the road to Lorton. Problem solved.

However, this operation appeared to be an exception, because that valley road is not a first or second gritting priority.

Clearly, many iced up Lakeland valley roads will not be routinely gritted in winter. How, then, is the growing winter tourist traffic to be catered for so that, in the celebrated words of the Lake District National Park’s chief executive Richard Leafe, they can enjoy a world-class visitor experience. Is it time to re-launch the debate about a tourist tax?

A striking and clear example is in Switzerland where in Constanz on the Bodensee a tax is unobtrusively levied throughout the year and costs two euros a day for all visitors over 16. Those who visit the Alps regularly are long used to this minor addition to hotel bills.

Peter Wood

Stainton, Penrith