Zip wires over Thirlmere’s open waters. Should our hearts rule our heads? Last day before the consultation closes. Last day to make sure that we have had our say, that any points we are bursting to make are registered. Of course, this is “just a planning application”, that is in a prescribed process and any decisions must follow planning rules. But even within the National Park and World Heritage Site that is the Lake District, Thirlmere is a special place. The birthplace of the conservation movement. The valley that links the North and South Lakes. A distinctive landscape in itself. There are those who say that Thirlmere is a manmade landscape. Of course it is, just as the majority of Cumbria’s landscapes are. From the tapestry of colours and shapes created by our farmers and foresters and drystone wallers, through the historic bridges that look “just right” in their setting, to the distinctive buildings in our villages and farm steadings, the hand of man is everywhere and contributes to the majesty and beauty of the area. These all contributed to our being granted World Heritage status. Thirlmere is specifically mentioned in the Inscription. Image by Christine Shaw Some say, “Well, there’s a road and car parks there anyway, so what tranquillity is there to spoil?” Unless I’m misunderstanding the principle of a zip wire, it has two ends, and I cannot believe anyone could say that the tranquillity of the west bank will not be shattered by landings, transfers and take-offs from that side. “But young people want attractions like this to bring them to the Lake District”. “We need to create these exciting activities to bring more people into the area”. Who says that young people only want this type of activity? How judgemental is that? Of course the thrill of a zip wire is attractive, but that particular thrill could be achieved anywhere. Young people also demonstrate their enthusiasm for walking, climbing, scrambling, cycling, swimming, and even sitting still and letting the peace and the grandeur wash over and soak into them. “The County needs more visitors to support more jobs”. Absolutely, but let’s think where they are going to go. The Lake District National Park Authority wants “initiatives that reduce non-essential travel, especially car based visitors, over Dunmail Raise between North and Central/South East areas”. There are other areas in Cumbria, not necessarily in the Lake District, that are crying out for visitor spend, so why aren’t we encouraging projects that will spread visitors over the whole County? Cumbria Tourism’s own figures confirm that the majority of visitors come to the County because of the scenery and landscape and the atmospheric characteristics of the area, using words such as “peaceful”, “relaxing” and “beautiful”. The estimates for new jobs, visitors and income for the zip wires are dwarfed by the existing (and increasing) 62,000, 45 million and £2.72 billion. Do we put this success and that of many other small businesses dependent on visitors, at risk for the sake of one company’s development and to satisfy the thrill-seeking of a relatively small number of visitors with plenty of money? Image by Colin Barnes For landscape reasons and National Park planning rules, this development should not go ahead. It would conflict with National Park purposes and planning policy, is inappropriate and would destroy landscape character, visual amenity and tranquillity. Cumbria County Council recommend refusal because “it is likely to increase the risk and danger and inconvenience to all users of the highway”, a risk they describe as “severe”. This is not a case of environmentalist luddites against anything new. Zip wires are not a bad thing, but they can be erected in the wrong place. Across Thirlmere is one of these wrong places. The Lake District has a world famous reputation. It now recognised a World Heritage Site. We have an excellent example of how a landscape can provide huge benefits, spiritual and economic, to residents, businesses and visitors. Head versus heart decision? In this case, there is no conflict, and this proposed development should be refused.