Hundreds join marchto “save the Beacon”

Date: Friday 12th October 2018
Some of the placards displayed on the Save the Beacon march.
Some of the placards displayed on the Save the Beacon march.

HUNDREDS of people joined a rally to “save the Beacon” on Saturday in response to Eden Council’s Penrith masterplan which includes a schene to build 5,560 homes in three new settlements on land behind the popular town landmark, on which some development would also be allowed.

Protesters gather in St Andrew’s churchyard to hear from the leaders of the campaign group;
Protesters gather in St Andrew’s churchyard to hear from the leaders of the campaign group;
Marchers on their way down from the Beacon
Marchers on their way down from the Beacon
A show of support for the “save the Beacon” message
A show of support for the “save the Beacon” message
A group of protesters who gathered on Beacon Edge make their feelings known.
A group of protesters who gathered on Beacon Edge make their feelings known.
lsla Davies who spoke out strongly in support of the Beacon.
lsla Davies who spoke out strongly in support of the Beacon.
Drummers lead the march into Penrith town centre on Saturday
Drummers lead the march into Penrith town centre on Saturday
Drummers lead the march into Penrith town centre on Saturday, where Carl Rush Williams sang a song he has composed about the Beacon.
Drummers lead the march into Penrith town centre on Saturday, where Carl Rush Williams sang a song he has composed about the Beacon.

Organised by Friends of Penrith Beacon — a community group campaigning to protect the woodland from development — the rally involved people walking into the town centre holding banners, and sounding bells, whistles and drums.

Penrith resident James Brough, aged 11, said: “I am here because the Beacon should belong to the people and the animals — not the developers.”

Sarah Haygarth, aged 42, of Roman Road, said: “The council need to listen. Nobody in Penrith wants houses on the Beacon. It is an asset to the town and a symbol of the town.

“The council say they want to protect the Beacon by building on it. This is nonsense. They should protect it by denying planning permission to anyone wanting to build on it.”

Among those who addressed the large crowd, which had gathered in St Andrew’s churchyard, was Isla Davies, aged 14, who was born and raised in Penrith.

“I feel strongly about saving the Beacon because for the whole of my life so far it’s been right there on my doorstep, and I wish for it to be there for the rest of my life too. There are several reasons why I disagree with the Penrith masterplan,” she said. Having grown up with the Beacon, she said some of her fondest memories were created there — from foraging for bilberries with her grandparents to make muffins with to den building.

She added: “My friend and I went up there only last week and we saw a deer. It was standing really close, staring right at us, it was amazing. How many people get to experience these things right in their home towns? These memories will stick with me forever.

“I want my baby cousin to experience ones like this too, when she thinks of the Beacon, not to think of houses on a hill, but to think of the trees and wildlife that’s there.

“It’s not somewhere where there are houses, it’s our Beacon. People who are OK with chopping it down clearly have not experienced the magic of it,” she said.

While being all for affordable housing, she questioned the need for it at the expense of “our little local woodland” and all of the animals which inhabit it.

“The council should move these plans elsewhere. Besides, who would want to move to a house where there is no easily accessible natural paradise for them to escape to?” said Isla.

“We all know that trees are integral to our eco-system. With the state our world is in, the last thing we should do is chop down our little local woodland. This is not a well thought out plan. Leave our Beacon alone, Eden Council. Save our Beacon, save our future.”

By Tuesday, a total of 1,819 people had signed an online permission to Eden Council calling for the masterplan to be rejected.

Iain Dawson, chairman of Friends of the Beacon, said: “We knew there was a strong feeling in the town in favour of protecting the Beacon wood from development but even we were amazed that an estimated 500 or more attended the rally. Given that the rally had been arranged at short notice it far exceeded our expectations.

t does show the deep attachment Penrith people have for the forest and our desire to pass it on unspoilt for future generations. None of the Eden Council executive committee live in town and it is perhaps to be expected that they don’t understand the affinity Penrith people have for the Beacon.

“It is clear that the crowd felt Eden Council were out of touch with townsfolk and that they wanted them to start listening to the voice of Penrith at last. The noisy message they gave was ‘no building on the Beacon’.”

He added: “There remain serious doubts about the validity of the ‘engagement process’ and we will continue to closely scrutinise Eden Council and ensure the people’s voice is heard. More action will follow unless the district council demonstrate they are truly listening.”