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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Bonington resigns from Friends of the Lake District after zip wire move

Sir Chris Bonington has slammed the “fortress mentality” of Lake District planners after they rejected plans for a zip wire at Honister slate mine.

Sir Chris Bonington photo
Sir Chris Bonington

The mountaineer’s outspoken comments came a day after he resigned from his role as a vice president with conservation group Friends of the Lake District. The friends vehemently opposed the mile-long zip wire in the Borrowdale valley, a scheme Sir Chris supported.

He said: “The only thing that would make me reconsider [my resignation] is if they withdraw their opposition to the zip wire.”

Jan Wilkinson, who owns the tourist attraction, described the decision to turn down the application – in defiance of advice from planning officers – as “absolutely ridiculous”.

The issue has provoked passionate debate within the Lake District National Park Authority, with a sharp division in opinions between those determined to retain the area’s “tranquil” character and those who say it needs something extra to attract more visitors.

Miss Wilkinson said the fight to win approval would continue.

“We have no option, really,” she said. “We have worked with the national park officers, Natural England, and the other bodies which need to be involved to find a way forward to maintain our commercial viability, and to keep people’s attention on coming to the Lake District.

“We’ve had massive support. [The decision] is absolutely ridiculous when you consider that officers are recommending this temporary installation.

“It was a very balanced proposal.”

She endorsed the national park authority’s existence but suggested some members involved in the zip wire decision had paid insufficient attention to background documentation and perhaps had paid more attention to the views of parish councils.

This view was echoed by Sir Chris, who called for major changes within the authority regarding the way planning decisions are made.

“I am worried about the fortress mentality that some members of the Lake District planning board have,” he continued. “For the sake of the national park itself, they need to think very carefully about what they are dong.

“They also need to reflect on the consequences of ignoring their trained officers. I don’t think that planning board is operating in the interests of the national park as a whole, for the people who visit and enjoy it or for the park’s long-term future. Something needs to be done.”

The slate mine wanted permission to run the zip wire from Fleetwith Pike on an 18-month trial basis.

The scheme was originally proposed by the late mine owner, Mark Weir, who was killed in a helicopter crash in March 2011.

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