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Lake District zip wire given green light after seven-year battle

The Guardian logo The Guardian 08/11/2018 Helen Pidd North of England editor
a close up of a rock mountain: Honister slate mine will erect the aerial runway between Borrowdale and Buttermere, subject to conditions being met © Getty Images Honister slate mine will erect the aerial runway between Borrowdale and Buttermere, subject to conditions being met

A kilometre-long zip wire will be erected in the Lake District following a seven-year planning battle.

Conservationists have long opposed the plan by Honister slate mine to erect the aerial runway on the remote mountain pass between Borrowdale and Buttermere.

But in a vote on Tuesday, the Lake District National Park Authority’s development committee voted seven to three in favour of the plan — subject to a number of conditions being met.

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Those in favour reasoned that the landscape was already industrialised because of its mining heritage and therefore a zip wire would not spoil the environment. They also thought it would provide much-needed jobs.

The Aerial Flight zip wire is expected to carry up to 57 people a day and will also be used to carry slate down to workshops from the mountainside.

There was heavy snow in the Lake District this winter © PA Wire/PA Images There was heavy snow in the Lake District this winter

The project had previously been refused permission for a zip wire in 2011 and 2012.

Its latest incarnation will involve a wire from high up on Honister Crag running to an “intermediate” landing point further down the mountainside. From there, a shorter run would take users down to the mine car park – to be used by organisations working with disabled people.

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Jan Wilkinson, widow of the late Mark Weir, who came up with the original zip wire idea but never saw it come to fruition after he was killed in a helicopter crash, told the local News and Star newspaper: “I am elated, absolutely elated. I am so pleased for the Lake District and Cumbria. It’s been a long road, 10 years in the making.”

The Cumbria branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Wainwright Society, and the Open Spaces Society all strongly objected on the grounds of impact on landscape character and loss of tranquillity.

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In their objection, the Friends of the Lake District said: “Whilst we recognise that activities at Honister represent and reflect cultural heritage, even if the proposal could be considered to fulfil the requirement for conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage, this cannot be at the expense of the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty.”

Sir Chris Bonington, a mountaineer, resigned as vice-president of the Friends of the Lake District in 2013 in a dispute over the wire. He told the Times he was delighted it had finally been given the green light. “I am heartily in favour of the zip wire. It will be below the skyline and will encourage the public to enjoy the beauty of the lakes.”

Committee member Geoff Davies, of Braithwaite, suggested visitors should go for a hike instead: “I don’t buy the idea that young people don’t want to climb hills anymore. It’s clear that the zip wire infrastructure is significant, and it’s the activity I am concerned about,” he told the meeting.

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