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A litmus test for our national parks

View of Thirlmere from High Rigg. Credit Andrew Locking

A planning application has been submitted by TreeTop Trek for a ‘Thirlmere Activity Hub’ which proposes the construction of multiple zip wires stretching from one side of Thirlmere to the other.

The creation of the zip wire development could set a precedent for further commercial activity around Thirlmere, the wider valley, and the Lake District National Park at large. It could provide the litmus test which highlights the priorities and future focus of our park authorities. We may soon see whether our national parks are to be conserved as areas of escape, cherished as places of adventure and quiet pursuit or to become more amenable to commercial interests and income generation.

This is not the first time that Thirlmere has been the focus of such interest and the location where once again, our relationship with the landscape, its use and its purpose are to be tested.

Public resistance to creating a reservoir at Thirlmere to service Manchester in the 1870s was a seminal moment in the history of the conservation movement and landscape protection in the UK and beyond. It led to the beginnings of organisations which became the National Trust and Friends of the Lake District who sought to protect the environment and fought to create legally protected areas of land – the national parks.

That battle showed that landscapes mattered to everyone, not just those who own land; it highlighted the incredible natural resources of the Lake District but also its vulnerability and sensitivity. This proposal once again brings these issues in to focus albeit in a thoroughly modern context.

Laura Fiske, planning officer at Friends of the Lake District said: “Friends of the Lake District believes that the Thirlmere Valley should be protected from inappropriate commercial development such as the zip wires being proposed.

“We are a membership organisation and represent a large number of members but we are just one stakeholder. Every individual has the right to have their views heard so I would encourage anybody with concerns about this development to email or write to the planning authority.

“Writing needn’t be a daunting prospect. We’ve provided templates and advice on what you might include so please do visit our website if you need some pointers on what to write and how to submit your comments.”

The full planning application is available to view online using the Lake District National Parks planning application search tool using planning reference: 7/2017/2298

http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/planning/planning-application-search-tool

Comments on this application can be submitted by email to [email protected] or by post to Lake District National Park Authority, Murley Moss, Kendal, LA9 7RL.

The closing date for submitting comments to the planning authority is 2nd January 2018.

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