Save Our Lake District (SOLD)

Zip wires, recreational 4x4s and motorbikes, gondolas or poorly considered path surfaces are all symptoms of a wider problem. We now find the Lake District National Park being ridiculed in the press and enough was enough. It is time for action.

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The LDNPA’s £7.9M project to restore the Keswick to Threlkeld footpath after damage caused by storm Desmond in 2015 should be a cause for universal celebration, but the LDNPA has angered the local community and many visitors with a controversial plan to cover the rural river gorge path in black tarmac. The plans to lay a 4 mile long 3 meter wide strip of tarmac through an area of natural beauty and ecological fragility led the Keswick Town Council to pass a historical and unanimous vote of no confidence in the Lake District National Park Authority, with locals claiming that the plans for the path surface are ‘vandalism’.  

Pictured: For contrast; rural section of the path versus tarmac section

In addition to objections about the aesthetics of the tarmac, regular users of the path have highlighted that an impermeable smooth surface will be slippery and hazardous in a wet, shaded, tree-lined gorge.  There are fears that the smooth surface will encourage high speed cycling by a minority.  Previously all users co-existed happily on the track.      

The tarmac row has been further exacerbated by poor community engagement and communications. Claims of an ‘extensive’ communications and engagement plan have been scoffed at by critics of the process, pointing to low awareness and misrepresentation of data collected from a flawed online ‘consultation’ survey.  Complaints and objections during and after the planning process and a petition with over 3,000 signatures has been ignored by the LDNPA who have declared themselves ‘unwilling’ not unable to reconsider the decision.    

Close to the 4thyear anniversary of storm Desmond, parts of the old trail near the town were covered in tarmac.  Campaigners want the most rural parts of the path  - not due to be surfaced until summer 2020 - to be covered in a surface in keeping with the existing natural character of the path that is ecologically friendly, suitable for all users and more practical in the woodland gorge setting. Keswick Town Council has proposed Ultitrec, a 100% recycled material which is used in the Monsal trail in the Peak District National Park.  Objectors are supported by Friends of the Lake District, Cycling UK and the Cumbria Bridleway Society. Complaints to the LDNPA Board, the Department for Rural Affairs, UNESCO and local MPs  have been made relating to the destruction of the natural environment, poor community engagement, the provision of misleading information and disingenuous attempts by the LDNPA leadership to discredit legitimate objections as ableist  or racist.   

The LDNPA appear resolved to proceed with the tarmac regardless of public opinion, but this short term ‘win’ will come at the cost of long-term good will.   Protestors are uniting and mobilising across the whole of the National Park to demand that the National Park Authority fulfils its statutory duty to protect the landscape because “it’s a National Park not a theme park”.  There are also calls for the LDNPA to address the really pressing issues that would benefit visitors and residents alike:  poor public transport links, excessive traffic and lack of affordable housing.   


We have asked for the following: 

  1. LDNPA to Engage with the community: The leadership of the LDNPA could engage with and listen to the people who live in the National Park. There should be more transparency around the decision making processes. The railway path is at the heart of our community, we are fully supportive of the LDNPA’s efforts to re-instate it. 
  2. Compromise on the K2T path surface: We propose that the rural parts of the path are covered in a surface that is ecologically friendly, suitable for all users, non slippy and more practical in the woodland gorge setting which is in shade, wet and leafy. The surface should be such that the existing natural character of the path is retained in these rural areas. The Keswick Town Council has proposed Ultitrec, a recycled material which is used in the Monsal trail in the Peak District National Park. 
  3. Improved Governance: There is a conflict of interests when the LDNPA is both the developer and the planning authority granting planning permission. Additional governance should be required, from the county council and/or another national park authority to improve public confidence. 
  4. Representation: The LDNPA Board to have more elected representation from local communities so that the needs of residents are considered alongside those of visitors and commercial interests and not dismissed out of hand or deliberately misrepresented.

For more information about the group and its campaign work visit its Facebook page at: