White Moss is common land. Photo: David Brown CC-BY-SA-2.0

White Moss is common land. Photo: David Brown CC-BY-SA-2.0

Campaigners are objecting to a second attempt by a Cumbrian landowner to build a visitor centre on a Lake District common.

Planners turned down a similar bid last year for the ‘welcome hub’ at White Moss, between Rydal and Grasmere.

But the Lowther Estate has submitted a new proposal for the site which, it said, ‘has the potential to act as an important hub within the wider Go Lakes network of pedestrian, cycle and public transport routes’.

White Moss stands on the route of a proposed cycleway alongside Grasmere and Rydal Water and is close to the Baneriggs woodland site which was recently put up for sale by the national park authority but attracted no bids.

The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation group, said in addition to needing planning permission, the development would need the consent of the Environment Secretary because it is common land.

An application for similar facilities was rejected by the Lake District National Park Authority’s development control committee despite officers’ recommendations in favour.

Jim Lowther, brother of the eighth Earl of Lonsdale, who is custodian of the family’s 117-square-mile estate, is mounting a second attempt to have a development approved.

OSS general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “This application is very similar to the one which was rejected by the authority last November.

“It is still proposed to take registered common land, a special type of land on which the public has rights of walk and ride. This means that the works would need, in addition to planning consent, the approval of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.

“There is no need to develop visitor facilities in this attractive, quiet location. The proposed building, euphemistically called a ‘welcome hub’, would be an ugly intrusion in this wild landscape. It appears to be primarily a money-earner for the estate.

“The proposed visitor facilities, including bike hire and event venue, are totally inappropriate here and would generate much additional traffic.”

The site stands on the main A591 Lakes Road which links Windermere with Keswick.

The Lowther Estate said the existing landscape at White Moss suffers from a number of issues that detract from its landscape setting and its role as an important visitor attraction within the Lake District.

Among these are the impact from an estimated 140,000 visitors each year, no permanent manned presence on the site, problems with the management of car parking, litter, toilets and dogs, and the lack of information and coherent signs, restricting the potential of the area.

Ms Ashbrook added: “The development would conflict with the first national park purpose, to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the park, and we do not believe it complies with the second purpose, to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park’s special qualities.

“There is no reason why the authority should vote differently this time. It should say a resounding ‘no’ to Jim Lowther.”

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