LAKE District Park chiefs have been hit with an unprecedented vote of ‘no confidence’ over their controversial plans for a Tarmac path in the heart of the Cumbrian fells.

Keswick Town Council unanimously backed the motion at a packed meeting this week, with other parishes across the county invited to follow their lead in a bid to ramp up pressure for an urgent re-think.

The authority tasked with protecting one of England’s most beautiful landscapes has agreed to a four-mile Tarmac track in the shadow of Blencathra, sparking the public outcry.

Objectors are in favour of the broader £7.9m Keswick to Threlkeld Railway Path Reinstatement scheme but are opposed to the re-surfacing materials which they say would constitute an “act of landscape vandalism”.

But Park bosses have described the path as “once in a lifetime opportunity”, insisting that the public have been consulted over the plans.

However, residents at the extraordinary meeting spoke overwhelmingly against the use of Tarmac while angry councillors blasted the LDNP for not agreeing more sympathetic alternatives.

Town and county councillor Tony Lywood said the LDNP’s bosses “seemingly weren’t listening”.

Mr Lywood, who also sits on the board of the LDNP, said the Tarmac was being put in place to encourage cyclists to the “detriment” of the landscape.

Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Copeland also accused the LDNP of “pushing an agenda of commercialisation”, presenting their “money-making activities” under the guise of offering “sustainable transport solutions”.

Taking aim at the authority’s leadership, he claimed they were not only disregarding the level of opposition but were flying in the face of the ‘Sandford Principle’.

Enshrined in National Parks’ policy, the principle states that: “Where irreconcilable conflicts exist between conservation and public enjoyment, then conservation interest should take priority”.

He said: “The Lake District is a visual piece of beauty and zip wires across lakes, 4x4s, London Eye-type gondolas or Tarmac on walking paths should be resisted as acts of landscape vandalism not aided and encouraged by our own planning authority.”

Richard Leafe, Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park Authority said the organisation was “extremely disappointed” by the town council’s decision.

He insisted that the LDNP had held “many community-consultation events”, providing regular updates.

He stressed that the scheme had undergone “thorough planning and grant-awarding processes.”

Mr Leafe said: “We have listened to users from the start of this project and will continue to do so.

“All of this has led to the successful start of work to rebuild the track, repair and replace damaged bridges and reopen a tunnel.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a route that is truly accessible for all, be they people with limited mobility, young children, cyclists both traditional and electric, runners or walkers.

“The National Park is for everyone in society and we must provide for that.

“Our management plan for the National Park balances both conserving the natural environment with supporting changes needed to create vibrant communities and world-class visitor experiences, upon which much of the local economy depends, such as the Keswick railway trail. We work hard to support these changes, through our open and transparent processes and ways of working with communities and organisations who help look after this special place.

“While the railway trail does run through a rural landscape, the route followed is man-made, with a clear transport-related history; being an old railway line.

“The use of Tarmac wouldn’t be appropriate on the majority of trails in the National Park, but with our changing public needs and climate, its use was considered appropriate and the project was given planning permission."

Keswick mayor David Burn said he would be writing to other parish councils across Cumbria, but particularly in the north Lakes are, encouraging them to hold their own vote of ‘no confidence’ over the plans.

The re-surfacing plans emerged in response to the floods in December 2015 which caused extensive damage, sweeping away two bridges that cross the River Greta.