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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Mark Brown North of England correspondent

Planners reject Lake District underground zip wire proposal

Langdale Pikes seen from above Elterwater in the Lake District
A Unesco advisory body had condemned the plans for an underground zip wire in Langdale valley, which they likened to a ‘theme park’. Photograph: FreespiritLandscapes/Alamy

Planners have rejected a proposal for an underground zip – wire attraction in the Lake District, which an international heritage body had condemned and likened to a “theme park”.

Burlington Stone, which has run the Elterwater slate quarry for two centuries, wanted to create a tourist attraction that would allow the public into the caverns for the first time. The central idea was for an explorer experience using zip wires between metal platforms in a previously mined cavern.

The proposals were condemned by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), an advisory body to Unesco, which in 2017 gave the Lake District its world heritage site status.

Icomos described the attraction as being “of a type that would transform the quarry or part of it into a theme park and would trivialise the experience of an important aspect of the Lake District’s heritage”.

On Wednesday, members of Lake District national park development control committee went against their own officers’ recommendation to agree the plans for the quarry in the Langdale valley.

The committee voted four to three to reject the proposals deciding that the benefits did not outweigh the harm, particularly because of increased traffic.

Cllr Stephen Donson, of Lakes Parish Council, had urged the committee to reject the proposal, arguing that the Lake District’s designation as a world heritage site would be endangered.

He said: “I agree that we would be in danger of transforming this part of the Lake District into a theme park. Liverpool lost its world heritage site status and it could happen here.”

Allen Gibb, for Burlington, said most of the visitors would already be coming to the Lake District and the projected numbers would have a negligible impact on traffic. “We really need to keep enhancing the appeal of the Lake District to combat the decline in numbers since Covid.

“We also need to attract younger people to the area. This type of fascinating experience would appeal to them.”

Icomos said the attraction would also draw traffic to the valley “and a type of audience that will contribute to the disruption of its tranquil and contemplative character”. The envisaged use of the caverns was more “adventure tourism” than “cultural heritage interpretation”, it added.

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