Skip to main content

Thirlmere Reservoir

Volume 788: debated on Thursday 25 January 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following objections by the Ministry of Defence, whether they intend to call in the planning application for zip wires across Thirlmere Reservoir.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and remind the House of my registered interest in outdoor activities.

My Lords, I think we are all intrigued by that. This application is currently under consideration by the Lake District National Park Authority. Noble Lords will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a current planning application. However, I can confirm that as this is within both a national park and a world heritage site, policies in the National Planning Policy Framework already give significant protection. The framework is a material consideration in any planning application.

My Lords, I will happily take the noble Lord rock climbing in the Lake District. Zip wires across Thirlmere are a very bad idea. They would be an inappropriate commercial intrusion into England’s premier national park, where fundamental policies include the conservation of the landscape together with recreational uses which are in harmony with that landscape, based firmly on the Sandford principles. Do the Government agree that their overriding responsibility, as the national Government in England, for this national park and nationally important natural heritage site—and indeed, as the Minister said, world heritage site—as the jewel in the English crown, means that they really ought to call in this application and stop it now?

My Lords, first of all, the Lake District is undoubtedly a jewel in the way that the noble Lord describes. However, I thought that there might be a Pendle dimension to this Question so, with a sort of macabre fascination, I googled “Lord Greaves Pendle zip wire” and found with alarm that there had indeed been a zip wire in Pendle until some 18 months ago. However, on the more serious issue, clearly we recognise, as I have indicated, that the national park is important. It was made a world heritage site relatively recently and became a national park longer ago. Both of those are factors that will be borne in mind with regard to the planning application, which I cannot comment on.

Does my noble friend think that the protests from the Liberal Benches would be more realistic if they did not also take the view that our national parks should be covered in pylons and wind farms?

My Lords, I do not wish to enter into a dispute between my noble friend and the Benches opposite. I recognise that on occasion there is a question of consistency from the Liberal Democrat Benches. I can see that smiles are coming even from those Benches, so perhaps they recognise the validity of the comment.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the world heritage site bid and as a resident of the Lake District National Park. Would the Minister accept and restate that, as he nominated the national park for world heritage site status, which is primarily about our cultural landscape and our natural beauty, it would be inappropriate for the tourist industry to see it as merely a way to create another Disneyland?

My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with great authority, and clearly I am very much in agreement about the particular beauty and characteristics of the Lake District. As I say, I am not in a position, as noble Lords will understand, to comment on a live application—which I think will be considered by the national park authority on 7 March.

My Lords, in reflecting on what the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Clark, have just said to the House, will the Minister also reflect that the first battle for Thirlmere was the beginning of the conservation movement? It took place in the 1870s and was supported by John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, and what a disgrace it would be if in the 21st century we were to desecrate this most beautiful part of Britain.

My Lords, the noble Lord is right that it is important to see the historical context of these things, just as the Kinder Scout “trespass” was very significant in terms of national parks. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate that there is a very important constitutional and legal principle here—that, as the Government, we are unable to comment on a live planning application. However, as I said, the nature of the Lake District and of world heritage sites means that particular protections will apply.

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that, although the preservation of the natural beauty of this country should properly have a very high priority, the Government’s first obligation is to provide for the defence of this country, and that the proposed zip wire would be a highly dangerous impediment for our air crews when flying at low level?

My Lords, my noble friend speaks with great authority. I certainly agree about the importance of defence to the country. As I said, I cannot comment on the application, but the Ministry of Defence has already registered its objections and this matter will be considered by the planning authority.