[C]ouncillors have confirmed their responses to a key planning document affecting South Lakeland.
Members of South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC’s) Cabinet have endorsed the council’s submission to the Lake District National Park’s (LDNPA’s) Local Plan consultation.
The LDNPA plan includes various proposals affecting South Lakeland, including sites for 690 new homes, employment sites to support economic growth, including ones at Ambleside and Staveley, and proposed solutions for car parking and congestion in Windermere.
LDNPA has been consulting on the plan since early May and today’s Cabinet meeting (18 July) set out SLDC’s responses to the suggestions.
One of the sites owned by SLDC and considered for possible development in the LDNPA plan is the Royalty Cinema and adjacent car park in Bowness.
In response to the Royalty site’s allocation, councillors at today’s meeting confirmed the retention of the cinema at the site.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, SLDC’s Deputy Leader, said: “Having the Royalty Cinema in the Local Plan affords it more and not less protection. Clearly our intentions have been misunderstood and minor alterations to the wording in our official response will reaffirm our intention to retain the cinema as a community and cultural asset.”
This confirms a previous commitment from SLDC’s Portfolio Holder for Culture, Councillor Chris Hogg, that there was no threat to the Royalty from its inclusion in the Local Plan allocations, which aims to identify sites in the national park that could be improved, enhanced or developed in the next 15 years of the plan period.
Councillor Hogg said: “We said several weeks ago that including this site in these discussions did not mean there were any plans or proposals for the Royalty, and we said we had absolutely no intention of losing the Royalty as a cinema.
“It is a vital cultural and historical asset for the district, which forms an important part of the Bowness Conservation area. It is highly valued by locals and visitors alike and provides excellent entertainment and leisure in this key tourist location.
“Our response to the LDNPA puts that commitment in black and white. We are asking the LDNPA to put a condition on that site that clearly states the cinema is retained.’’
Councillor Ben Berry said: “I am really disappointed by the council’s decision to press ahead with its plans. It shows a complete lack of respect for the views of local people.
“The Royalty is too important to be left to the whims of developers for the next 15-years.
“The council has scrabbled together a last-minute promise to give it a special designation in the future but there is no guarantee that this will be accepted by National Park planners, or that it won’t be weakened in the years to come.
“The fight to save the Royalty Cinema isn’t over. We need to keep pressing the council to withdraw the site from the National Park’s Local Plan before it is approved next year”
The responses cover many other areas of the LDNPA’s plan.
In its formal response SLDC welcomes the plan’s overall vision and positive approach to developing the local economy, including support for additional car parking in Bowness, Ambleside and Coniston, ambitious plans for a ‘World Heritage Way’ pedestrian and cycle route at the northern end of Windermere proposals to improve the Lakes Line.
The council also welcomes the proposed housing allocations that will help to ensure affordable and local housing needs are met in South Lakeland and proposals to support the retention and development of higher and further education.
The council has requested that the plan includes a clear statement on the ways the plan addresses climate change issues, and asks that the plan refers to the role of LDNPA in the Morecambe Bay functional economic area.
Councillor Brook added: “The LDNPA’s Local Plan is a significant document which touches on the lives of many residents and visitors.
“It is ambitious in its scope to provide new homes, employment opportunities and transport links.
“The plan also recognises the need to develop the area’s significant cultural reputation, offer greater protection against flooding and enhance our special environment.
“It is entirely appropriate that SLDC makes these comments and suggestions and we are pleased with the overall ambitious nature of the plan, which overlaps with some of the visions and values which are contained in our own Council Plan.”