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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Honister Slate Mine boss Jan vows to fight zip wire snub

Honister Slate Mine is set to appeal after controversially being denied permission to build a zip wire at the site.

The Lake District National Park Authority’s planning board on Wednesday went against the advice of planning experts and voted seven to four against the development.

The decision followed a three-hour discussion - the longest in the committee’s history - and came despite nearly 400 letters of support.

Among the speakers at the meeting was a representative of the Friends of the Lake District, which opposed the plans.

But the group’s vice president, Caldbeck mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, spoke in favour.

He later resigned from the group because of its handling of the plans.

After the decision, Jan Wilkinson, owner of the slate mine, said: “There are two options - to appeal or to shut the doors. There are 26 people who need their wages every Friday. I’m not going to do that to them.”

Jan, who has run the mine since the death of her partner Mark Weir nearly two years ago, said last month that the zip wire was needed to keep the tourist attraction fresh and give people a reason to keep visiting.

Slate mining is expensive and she said tourism was needed to support it.

The zip wire would have been used by people who had completed the mine’s Via Ferrata climbing attraction.

It would have taken them from Honister Crags to the car park.

In September 2011 the authority rejected the slate mine’s initial plan for a zip wire.

Following that decision, the company worked with planners to amend the plans.

The start point was moved from the horizon, the length reduced and the proposed zip wire made quieter.

Under the fresh plans, the mine wanted to put up the zip wire for a temporary period of 18 months.

During that time an independent study would have been done by the University of Cumbria to assess its impact on visitors to the area.

After that, a decision would have been taken by the national park authority to extend the permission or order its removal.

But the planning board threw out the plans, concerned about the effect the development would have on the landscape.

Jack Ellerby, policy officer for Friends of the Lake District, said there was no justification for eroding the wild and tranquil area of Borrowdale.

He added: “The Alps cannot compete with what the Lake District has to offer, so let’s keep it that way.”

Sir Chris said after the meeting that the Friends of the Lake District did some good work “but they’ve got this one terribly wrong”.

Ms Wilkinson said she planned to lodge an appeal as soon as she received the decision paperwork.

She added that, if the appeal was won, the mine would have to install the zip wire in time for the start of the 2014 tourist season, a year later than planned.

The zip wire must be up for two summers to be viable as a temporary venture.

She said: “We were totally willing after 18 months to say if it wasn’t working we’d walk away.

“We haven’t been given that option and it’s incredulous in my opinion.

“It beggars belief that they’d go against the officers who have recommended it for approval.

“There’s nothing more that I can do than work with the authorities.

“All I have got now is hope.

“People have said ‘is it just Mark’s dream, is that what pushes you on?’ There is an element of that but it’s because I have seen people come up here in all weathers to the Via Ferrata. It makes them question what they’re capabilities are. I see that positive effect on people.”

Have your say

The Zip Wire would have been a fitting memorial to Neil who put so much into the Old Slate Mine, and yes in order to keep it going it needs Finance and the prifit from the proposed wire would have brought that in, but I think Dave and the so caleed Friends of the Lakes should remember the national Park belongs to us all, so next time do the right thing and get this passed, then let the Mine move on. posted by Alex Craig 17 th. January.

Posted by Alex Craig on 17 January 2013 at 20:57

Yet again our beloved planning committee fail to see the true potential that such an initiative will deliver - boost for tourism and jobs for locals. I accept we need to protect the great environment in which we live, but this will cause far less harm than the thousands of walkers, the thousands of sheep and all the others who we let enjoy this great place. Wake up LDNP committee, and have the guts to make a balanced decision to allow this application. For the team at Honnister Mine do not lose faith and battle on - good will win in the end I hope.

Posted by Andrew on 17 January 2013 at 16:52

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