CALLS for a congestion charge to be introduced in the Lake District are being made by green campaigners.

Members of Ambleside Action For a Future (AAFAF) have set out ambitious plans to rebrand and market the Lake District as a new ‘green tourist destination’.

As part of its plans the action group wants to: enforce a eco-levy on cars driving into the Lakes; pedestrianise Ambleside town centre; create a sustainable transport hub in King Street, Ambleside; and install electrical vehicle charging points for community use.

AAFAF’s vision is by 2025 a significant number of visitors will be incentivised to arrive either by train or other public transport.

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Motorists will also be encouraged to leave their cars at gateway car parks., as part of the proposals.

They want to see one single transport authority have overall responsibility for managing a comprehensive integrated transport system across the Lake District, linking modes including trains, buses, minibuses, boats and cycles. They are calling for the majority of buses, minibuses and taxis, and an increasing number of private vehicles, will to be electric or use sustainable fuels.

They also want to see investment in infrastructure including cycle paths and some roads being closed to cars at certain times of the day - with some exceptions for residents.

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The action group has written to South Lakes MP Tim Farron, the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), Cumbria County Council, South Lakeland District Council and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs for support.

Steve Lenartowicz, transport spokesman for the AAFAF, said ‘we love visitors’ but this is all about protecting the essence of the Lakes and the very reason people come here.

He said: “We need incentives for people to leave their cars behind and to travel to and through the Lake District in a sustainable way.

“We need a comprehensive integrated sustainable transport system with a hub in Ambleside. This would include affordable public transport, protected cycle routes, public electric vehicle charging points, traffic calming and pedestrian-only zones. The costs of this could be met through a levy on traffic driving into the National Park. We believe that the Lake District should be free for people to access, but not free for noisy polluting traffic.

“We want to be part of a World Heritage Site that is worthy of the name – a world leader in transport solutions for communities, the climate, and the local environment. We believe that these changes will bring huge positive benefits for everybody.”

Community leaders had mixed views over the proposals.

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Emma Moody, sustainable development advisor for LDNPA, said: “We welcome AAFAF sharing their ideas on this.

“It is an ambitious proposal, with some interesting ideas.

“Many of these ideas are in line with what we’re working towards as part of our Visitor Travel Strategy to improve the way visitors get to, and move around, the national park.

“A key aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of visitors travelling by car and encourage more sustainable modes of transport. We look forward to discussing this further with AAFAF and other stakeholders.”

County Council highways boss, Cllr Keith Little, said: “We have discussed congestion charges multiple times at Cumbria County Council and many, many people are supportive of it, but I must say I have mixed views on it.

“The trouble is the County Council would have to introduce it and it might start to have a detrimental effect - and it may do that, or it may not.

“We did try to introduce on-street parking about four to five years ago and we were advised that we were the only county who doesn’t charge for street parking.

“Some people just want visitors to pay - and I visit various areas and they don’t just charge me - they charge everybody.

“I think what we need to do in the Lake District is work proactively with the local committees and the land owners, because you see there are many fields that you don’t see anything in them for years and years, and our biggest opportunities for land are adjacent to town, where we can have some ‘park and ride’ facilities which work fantastically well in various parts of the Midlands.

“That takes the vast majority of 1,000-2,000 cars each day out of these places, making it much greener and more pleasant for people to walk and cycle.

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“People say to me you could fetch £10M a year in to Cumbria County Council which you could spend on different things but if you take that out of the visitor economy, is that a good thing?

“I’m not dead against it, but I have mixed feelings on it like many others in the council.”

Busara Knight, who runs Ambleside’s Doi Inthanon Thai restaurant, said: “It’s a good idea, but it’s just a question of implementing the plans.

“I suppose a lot of the barriers here are mental ones - if you do it, I guess people will get used to it sooner or later.

“Parking is an issue for businesses, in terms of deliveries and things like that. So I think there would need to be a comprehensive consultation process among business owners in the area before they go ahead.”

South Lakes MP Tim Farron said: “I strongly welcome the spirit of these proposals to make the Lake District carbon neutral. I particularly endorse the idea of a sustainable transport hub with more bus services and electric bike hire stations, something which I raised directly with ministers in the House of Commons earlier this month. I think it’s important that as we look at these practical measures.”

Mr Lenartowicz said this was not about imposing an immediate levy, which could be damaging to businesses trying to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic bt a plan for 2025.

He said: “Anyone who has tried to drive between Kendal and Ambleside at a weekend knows just how bad it can be. This is not a new issue, plans have been drawn up before but none have gone anywhere. Our long term plan will benefit the Lakes.”