Plans for the redevelopment of a quarry at Elterwater in the Langdale Valley – at the heart of the Lake District have reignited public fears of the National Park turning into a theme park.

Since quarry operator Burlington Stone made their adventure park plans for the quarry public on their website, more than 30,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the plans.

Described as an adventure tourism experience, the plans are to involve a high ropes course, zip wire, ‘alpine coaster’, car-parking for at least 200 cars and an interpretation facility.

Landscape conservation charity Friends of the Lake District is opposed to the proposal. Lorayne Wall, Friends Planning officer, said: “The strength of feeling shown directly to us by our members, and in the petition, makes clear that fears have been reignited about the risk of the national park being turned into a theme park.

“We must therefore act again to ensure the Lake District is treated in line with the ‘Sandford Principle’, which requires that when there is conflict between conservation and public enjoyment in National Parks, then conservation should take priority”.

The main concerns among those against the plans are the traffic and the inappropriateness of a theme-park type attraction in such a rural location near a small village in the Langdale valley.

Elterwater is popular as a location to visit in its own right and as a starting point for walks, so the village itself and the narrow, winding local lanes approaching the quarry site already suffer the impacts of high levels of traffic and parking problems.

A low level of extraction and processing currently continues at Elterwater Quarry but the owners plan to scale back operations, and they have partnered with Zip World who run similar attractions in north Wales (crucially, outside of Snowdonia National Park).

Planning Officer Lorayne Wall said: “While removing the currently relatively low levels of quarry traffic from the roads, this proposal would see a huge rise in private cars and potentially coaches passing through the village to access the site. Local businesses in the valley already have to bring in staff from distant towns due to a lack of a local workforce, so this would add further to the traffic generated by the development.  

“Although the Elterwater site itself is a brownfield site - a former quarry - we are also concerned about the impact on the landscape character and tranquillity of the area as a result of traffic increases and the nature and level of the activity, not to mention the impact on views from the surrounding fells. While the quarry is clearly visible from surrounding fells, if this proposal goes ahead, what will be seen would be very different, including a large car park.

“The site is adjacent a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a County Wildlife Site and ancient woodland, so we are also concerned about impacts on biodiversity and the loss of opportunities to enhance it.”

Planning consents given for Elterwater quarry as recently as 2021 were subject to a restoration condition, meaning that the operator is obligated to carry out a restoration scheme to enhance the local landscape and wildlife habitats once quarrying at the site has ceased.

The proposal has not been lodged as a formal planning application yet, but the operator has clearly indicated plans to do so, as you can read on their website: https://elterwaterquarry.co.uk/

We are urging people, if they are concerned about this idea, to write to their local parish or district Councillor if they live locally, or to quarry operator Burlington Stone to give your views. You can also let us know your views, as this will help us to write a response reflecting your views when a formal consultation takes place.

No application has yet been submitted, but you can make your views known by:

Read more on our website: https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/FAQs/proposals-for-the-future-of-elterwater-quarry

Image: Burlington Stone