Plans to “pave paradise” scuppered

Date: Tuesday 10th October 2017

A PARKING free-for-all blighting a classic Lakeland walk will only get worse after national park officials rejected a new car park for a third time, it has been claimed.

Proposals for a 65-space car park at Cupboard Field, Newlands, were refused by six members of the Lake District national park development control committee.

The plan, for a field close to the foot of Catbells, above Derwentwater, had the support of two local parish councils, Allerdale Borough Council, highways authority Cumbria County Council, Keswick Tourism Association and a 500-signature public petition.

A lack of parking places for walkers has seen nearby roads become increasingly “gridlocked”. Cars are regularly abandoned on grass verges and double yellow lines, while farm gates have been obstructed and access for the emergency services blocked, the meeting in Kendal was told.

National park officers called it a “significant traffic problem”, and said a car park could be the solution. However, officers recommended refusal because a car park would harm “tranquility” and negatively impact on the location in a world heritage site. More vehicles could be attracted into the area by a car park, and the problem could continue, officers said. Landscape charity Friends of the Lake District said a car park would urbanise open countryside. Twenty objections were made in total and three nearby residents spoke against the plan.

Objector Professor Bob Fowler, who lives at nearby Gutherscale, quoted a poem by John Keats and a Joni Mitchell song to get his point across, telling the meeting: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever — unless, in the words of the song, someone decides to pave over paradise and put up a parking lot.”

His wife, Penny, said a hard-standing car park 365 days a year was “not the solution”. “Cupboard Field is ancient pasture land,” she said. “That is what we residents, and visitors to this newly-designated Unesco world heritage site, expect to see below Catbells.”

Resident Douglas Neill urged the committee to reject once and for all “the cacophony of 65 drivers and their passengers all concentrated in an area of outstanding natural beauty”.

Local councillor Adrian Davis-Johnston supported the car park and called on the committee to show “courage”. “There is a problem here,” said Mr. Davis-Johnston, “and it’s only one that is going to increase as the Lake District becomes more popular. If something is not done, then we are not addressing the issue. Someone could die because emergency vehicles can’t get through.”

One of the reasons the application was refused was because a “strategic traffic management scheme” had not been provided by the applicant, park officers said.

However, there was uncertainty over whether the responsibility for such a scheme rested with the applicant or a “strategic body” like the county council, or the national park itself, officers said.

Committee member Hugh Branney said: “Nothing, but nothing, attracts cars like a car park. I think yellow lines, if enforced, would be a solution."

Businessman Michael Anderton, the applicant and owner of the field, called the decision “farcical”.

“After 20 years of discussion still we have no car park at the base of the busiest short walk in the Lake District,” said Mr. Anderton, a director at the Lingholm Estate, Portinscale.

“There has to be provision of off-road parking. At the worst times the narrow roads are literally gridlocked. The situation is an accident waiting to happen. Yellow lines are ignored and many people finish their day with a parking fine. What sort of visitor experience is that?”

Previous planning applications by Mr. Anderton were turned down in 2003, and 2012. The latter, for a temporary car park, was upheld on appeal with conditions. Permission for temporary use ran out two years ago.

Mr. Anderton’s agent, chartered surveyor Paul Lewis, said the “burden” of providing a strategic traffic policy was a matter for local government and the planning authority, not the applicant.