CAMPAIGNERS are holding a protest rally against a proposed tourist attraction which they claim to be "an act of rural vandalism".

The demonstration is set to precede a strategic meeting of the Westmorland & Furness planning committee, with plans on the table for a 840m luge track, operations facility with cafe, car park, and an accompanied chairlift at Blaze Fell, Armathwaite. 

The proposed site for the attraction was first put to Eden District Council back in 2021, before being placed for decision by the Westmorland & Furness unitary authority. 

The plans, put forward by Michelin-starred hotelier and landowner Charles Lowther and Daniel Holder, owner of Cumbria’s award-wining eco holiday park, The Quiet Site, have since proved controversial.

An online petition has amassed over 1,500 online signatures against the plans. 

The developers argue that the proposed attraction, set to be 'Europe's first gravity-fuelled downhill luge track', will bring economic gains to the community without negatively impacting the environment, citing 'carbon neutrality' and the introduction of '2,000 new trees' and habitats for wildlife. 

But village resident and county councillor David Ryland, who lives in the village, said: “The hundreds of tonnes of concrete that will be used on the site will generate significant carbon emissions.

"Furthermore, there are inadequate public transport links to the site so we can expect over 500 extra cars a day using our minor rural roads, significantly increasing both noise and air pollution.

"Residents, farmers and emergency services already struggle at peak times on these small country roads and this will only be exacerbated if this development goes ahead," he said. 

Julia Aglionby, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Penrith and Solway, said:  "Such a large construction project in the open countryside is wholly inappropriate and the low-wage jobs will do little to enhance our economy.

"I am proud to call the Eden Valley my home and I will stand side-by-side with my local community to oppose this hilltop car park and café – a blot on our precious landscape," she said. 

Daniel Holder and Charles Lowther, the joint proposers of this project, said: "The luge track will sit unobtrusively within an established managed woodland on the northern side of Blaze Fell following a route through a natural bowl and in part the route of the old access track to the sandstone quarry that sits above it." 

The developers insist that traffic will not increase significantly in Armathwaite and surrounding villages, claiming that most patrons will arrive via the A6 and shuttlebuses. 

"We understand that with any new proposal, especially one that brings a brand-new idea, there will be intense local scrutiny.

"While the objectors say this attraction is 'rural vandalism' we honestly believe it is a farm tourism enterprise that will revitalise this historically commercially quarried area." 

In response to the public objection, they said: "These (1,500) signatures have largely been provided by the Friends of the Lake District organisation and the vast majority of these originate from outside the Eden Valley.

"The proposed site is not in the Lake District National Park."

They also maintain that their project will drive employment and support the local economy, backing up their claim with the proposed creation of 20 to 30 high-paying jobs.

Residents are rallying on March 9 at 11am at the Tarn Wood lay-by to voice their concerns.