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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Honister slate mine owners call for zip wire support

THE owners of Honister Slate Mine are urging people to back their controversial plans for a temporary zip wire.

Planners at the Lake District National Park Authority are due to consider the proposal next month but it has attracted opposition from Buttermere and Borrowdale parish councils.

A meeting was held by mine bosses in Borrowdale to tell locals about the plans, but it was only attended by a few people.

Celia Taylor-Weir, mother of late mine owner Mark Weir, said it was not viable to run a business on slate production alone, as shown by the fact other county slate firms had recently folded. Honister survives by a combination of slate production and tourism, she said, but the visitor experience needed to be regularly updated.

The 3,400ft zip wire, from near the top of Fleetwith Pike to its visitor centre, would be erected for 18 months, during which time independent research to assess its impact would be carried out by the University of Cumbria. If the results are positive, the company says it would seek permanent planning permission for the zip wire.

It would be used by people who have completed the Via Ferrata attraction.

The proposal is an amended plan which has been resubmitted to the authority after plans for a permanent wire were refused last year.

Jan Wilkinson, mine owner and partner of the late Mr Weir, said: “We have got people working here who live in the parishes. There are two gentlemen who lost their jobs early in 2012 who are working here now. Honister’s giving them a future. We’re fighting to retain visitors.”

If the plans are turned down the company fears it could lose visitors, affecting its viability and that of other tourism business.

The park authority has received hundreds of letters both in favour of the zip wire and against it.

Among the objectors is campaign group Friends of the Lake District.

Mrs Taylor-Weir said: “We love the Lake District but we want to be able to work in the Lake District. It has been a mine for hundreds of years. We want a sustainable community.

“If they’re calling this the adventure capital of the UK we have got to give them adventure. How any of that can be bad for the whole community I don’t know.”

The application will be considered on January 9.

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