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We are delighted that plans for the commercial development of Lake District common land have been rejected following a public inquiry.
Jim Lowther of the Lowther Estate wanted to build a ‘visitor hub’ at White Moss, on the A591 near Grasmere in the Lake District National Park. The development included an events venue, retail outlet, catering facility and bike hire, as well as suburbanisation of local footpaths.
Because the works were sited on common land, the estate needed consent from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, as well as planning permission. The Lake District National Park Authority had refused planning permission and the estate appealed. The Planning Inspectorate held a public inquiry into the planning appeal and commons application in August.
The objectors included, beside the Open Spaces Society, the Friends of the Lake District and the Federation of Cumbria Commoners.
The public inquiry inspector, Mr Philip Major, concluded that the proposals would be likely fundamentally to change the nature of the immediate surroundings, and would establish a commercial enterprise in a currently unspoilt location.
He said: ‘The landscape of the area is famously beautiful. … The intensification of use together with the commercial element of the proposals would be detrimental to the rural countryside ambience. The building would be out of character with the surroundings and in my judgement would cause significant harm to the landscape.’
He was concerned that the development would encourage people to congregate in an area which currently only attracts those wishing to use the small-scale facilities, seriously altering the nature of the surroundings, with a harmful impact on the ambience of the woodland.
He considered that the development breached various planning policies and said ‘It is worth remembering that policy CS01 concisely captures the principle that where there is conflict between national park purposes there should be a greater weight attached to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and heritage of the national park.’
Says Ian Brodie, who represented the Open Spaces Society at the public inquiry: ‘We are delighted that the inspector so roundly rejected the proposals. He upheld the values of national parks and recognised the special character of common land and its importance to our finest landscapes.
‘We hope that the result will send a clear message to the landowner and others who have the duty of stewardship for common land that commons are not suitable for places for commercial developments.’
Jim Lowther is the brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale who is custodian of the family’s estate.