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Jim Lowther, brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale, who is custodian of the family’s 117-square-mile estate, is planning to develop common land at White Moss on the A591 between Rydal Water and Grasmere at the heart of the poet Wordsworth’s countryside. The Lowther estate stretches across Cumbria from Penrith to the Howgill fells—some of the most beautiful and inspiring scenery in Britain.
The scheme has been recommended by the Lake District National Park’s planning officers and will come before the park’s Development Control Committee on Wednesday 5 November.
Our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, says: ‘This grandiose money-making scheme for improved car parks, strategically planned and defined tracks and trails centred on a new “welcome hub” offering food drink and various retail outlets, will tame the unspoiled area known as White Moss Common. Such a development must jeopardise the proposal to designate the Lake District National Park as a World Heritage Site’.
The designation is currently being promoted by a consortium consisting of the Lake District National Park and amenity, tourist and business interests. ‘But,’ Kate points out, ‘the designation relies heavily on the extensive common land within the area. The technical evaluation for the designation emphasises that commons “have been protected against encroachment and development since the nineteenth century” and ‘there is a powerful body of UK legislation to protect the integrity of commons”. Yet the LDNPA seems willing to allow the degradation of White Moss Common for commercial gain.
‘If the Lake District’s commons are eroded, the unique qualities of the Lake District itself are devalued and the opportunity of gaining World Heritage status will slip from our hands.
‘We note that the officers, in recommending approval, conclude that “the matter is finely balanced”, noting its conflict with park policies and questioning if it is necessary. We call on members of the Development Control Committee to reject this damaging development which will suburbanise and commercialise a very lovely part of the national park,’ Kate says.
Among other objectors to the Lowther scheme are the Friends of the Lake District, Lakes Parish Council, Ramblers and a number of individuals.
Kate adds ‘We objected because this would be an ugly intrusion in this landscape which inspired the Romantic tradition. It also conflicts with national park purposes which are to conserve natural beauty and promote enjoyment of the park’s special qualities. We are particularly concerned that the Lowther Estate failed to mention that the site is registered common land with rights to walk and ride. The Lake District planning officers dismiss this too, merely saying that the decision for works on common land rests with the Secretary of State for Environment.’