Letting the planning process run its course

We are custodians of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United Kingdom, and often need to balance competing interests in our land from groups wanting to use it for various pursuits. We need to manage these interests while keeping in mind our primary concern of ensuring that the water flowing into our reservoirs from the land is as clean as possible. 

In 2017, Cumbrian company Treetop Trek approached us about creating a new activity hub at Thirlmere in the Lake District National Park, which would feature zip line experiences across our reservoir.

Local protest

The idea gave rise to significant local protest. Conservation, walking and mountaineering groups were united in opposition, arguing that the development was profoundly unsuited to the location and risked undermining the policies of the National Park.

As the landowner at Thirlmere, we were satisfied that the zip line would not have had a detrimental impact on water quality, although we acknowledged that wider impacts would need consideration.

With that in mind, we supported Treetop Trek in exploring the possibility of gaining planning permission for its proposed development. From the outset we said that the planning process was the most appropriate mechanism for these differing views to be aired, and for stakeholders with a vested interest in the future economic, social and environmental prosperity of Cumbria to decide upon this proposal.

After announcing its intentions, Treetop Trek held several consultation sessions with the local community and stakeholder groups. However, in the face of increasing opposition and concerns from the Ministry of Defence about the danger to low-flying fighter aircraft, it withdrew its application temporarily.

Freedom of information

Following this temporary withdrawal, a Freedom of Information request was made by Friends of the Lake District to the Lake District National Park Authority asking for a copy of the Planning Officer's draft report. The report showed that planning officers were recommending the application be refused on grounds of harm to the landscape.

Following the publication of this report, and given our stated position to stand by the planning authority's decision, we withdrew our support for the proposal.

Sometimes, as a landowner, we are drawn into disputes about what happens on and around the land that we safeguard for the region.

The activity hub proposal drew comment and concern from stakeholders with competing interests and strongly held views. We remained neutral and let the planning process conclude, believing that the best course of action was to let Cumbria decide.