A new proposal for the construction of a major car park in the heart of the Lake District is generating strong feelings, with local residents divided over their views on the plans.
The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) is being asked to consider plans for a 150-space car park on the edge of Portinscale, on the north-western edge of Derwentwater near Keswick.
The suggested new paid-for car park, on Ullock Moss Common, has been proposed by Michael Anderton, director of the Lingholm Private Trust, which owns the land in question.
The proposal also includes a request to create a new shuttle bus pick up and drop off point at Cupboard Field, also owned by the trust, at the foot of the nearby popular Lake District fell Catbells.
Proposals put before the National Park Authority include the creation of public toilets at the Ullock Moss car park, and explain that the shuttle bus would carry passengers from the Cupboard Field pick up point back to the car park.
Representing the applicant, Crosby Granger Architects explained in their submission to the LDNPA that parking in the local area is a “long recognised issue”, and “appears to be getting worse”.
They added that congestion is significant in and around the village of Portinscale, and has continued to be so even under periods of Covid-related restrictions.
“Emergency vehicles, bus service, residents, National Trust, farm and forestry operations and deliveries are all finding great difficulty in accessing the area,” the firm stated.
Strong feelings have already been expressed by many on the application, with more than 200 letters of either support or objection having already been submitted to the LNDPA.
A number of local residents remain unconvinced that the proposed new car park will succeed in alleviating the congestion issues Portinscale is increasingly battling.
Portinscale residents Chris Wadsworth and Michael Baghurst told the authority that the village, like others in the area, has a “serious traffic problem”.
“In the last five years the amount of traffic through the village has increased exponentially making the junction with the A66 extremely dangerous.
“There is a serious accident in the making there.”
However, they maintain that the proposed car park will “only serve to make the problem much worse”.
“If planning is granted Ullock Moss will be flagged up as a car park on social media etc, making it a magnet to tourists and we will soon be overwhelmed by through traffic.”
They believe a “transport hub in Keswick serving several villages” would be a preferable solution to congestion issues facing Portinscale and other nearby villages such as Braithwaite, Thornthwaite and Threlkeld.
Portinscale residents Gordon and Barbara Edwards agreed that the shuttle bus offer would serve to attract more visitors to the area, describing it as a “tourist attraction of its own”, while Helen Boit, who lives a short distance from Ullock Moss and is a frequent visitor to the area, believes the creation of the car park would create “more problems than it resolves”.
She feels a “much larger car park” should instead be created adjacent to the A66, much closer to Keswick, and a park and ride scheme from such a car park would be successful in reducing the number of vehicles parking in and passing through Portinscale.
“If the planning application was to be approved the car park would soon be full and, has has been seen frequently during the Covid lockdown, people would then just park their vehicles as close as possible to that car park, overwhelming Portinscale and making the road impassable for emergency and other vehicles,” Ms Boit added.
The proposed car park has however found a measure of support from a number of local residents and business owners.
Sharon Henderson, landlady of the nearby Swinside Inn, stated that as someone who uses the road in question “constantly”, she supports the proposal.
She described the traffic problems in the area, particularly in peak season for tourists and at weekends, as a “constant nightmare” that can be “extremely dangerous”.
In August, the Ullock Moss site was temporarily opened as a free car park, though current restrictions limit its use for this purpose to no more than 56 days in a year.
This is something Sharon Henderson described as having made a “huge difference” to the traffic on roads close by.
“Some days I don’t even think emergency services would be able to get through, people are only interested in parking up wherever they can to do a walk without thinking of the trouble they are causing.”
Paul Dixon, a volunteer ranger with the Keswick Red Squirrel Group who covers the Portinscale area, and has been frequenting the area for more than 25 years.
He explained to the LNDPA that in recent years he has noticed a “massive increase in inappropriate parking” from Portinscale to the base of Catbells.
“I have serious concerns that the increase in recreational opportunities and inappropriate parking will at some time prevent access of emergency vehicles to the area which may result in a loss of life,” he added.
“This proposal would go some way to alleviating this problem by provision of parking on the edge of Portinscale.”
Mr Dixon also welcomed in the plans the creation of public toilets at the proposed car park, given the “woeful lack of toilet facilities” in the area.
He explained that in his capacity as a ranger, he has “on a number of occasions” discovered “human faeces behind walls adjacent to hotspots of parking”.
As the planning authority for the Lake District, it will be up to the Lake District National Park Authority and its development control committee to determine whether the application for the proposed car park meets the relevant planning criteria.
The LNDPA has stated that the decision on the application will be taken by its development control committee, meaning the decision will be taken no earlier than April 7.
Anyone wishing to have their say on the application has until March 5 to make a representation to the authority.