For whom do our national parks exist? Are they for everyone to enjoy, whatever their favoured activity? Or are they purely for lovers of peace, tranquillity and the silence of the countryside?
The issue which has polarised opinion is whether 4x4s and motorbikes should be allowed to use a few of the old farm and quarry tracks in the Lake District. It is a debate which will rumble on into 2021, and probably beyond.
In August 2020, a judge ruled that the National Park Authority acted lawfully in allowing the use to continue, but that didn’t bring an end to the controversy.
Campaigners who had taken the authority to court immediately said they would fight on. They claim the passing of time and the tide of public opinion will inevitably result in such activities being banned eventually.
And the LDNPA itself recognised they would have to do more to reconcile the two sides of the argument. It has promised to set up a new management group to monitor the activities in 2021.
In a sense we have been here before: when the 10mph speed limit was imposed on Windermere. Lovers of noisy machines – in that case jet-skis and motorboats – clashed with those seeking peace and quiet. In that case tranquility won and the hospitality industry has thrived ever since.
But that debate was like a pebble in a pond compared with the glacial fury and abuse hurled about over allowing 4x4s and motorbikes to use Tilberthwaite Road and High Oxen Fell Road in Little Langdale, including land which was bequeathed to the National Trust by author and environmentalist Beatrix Potter.
The campaign to stop the motorised vehicles reached a crescendo in 2019. Protestors claimed the vehicles were noisy, intrusive and spoiled the enjoyment of Lakeland by other users, like walkers and cyclists.
One farming couple quit their National Trust property saying the vehicles were making it difficult to carry out their work. Other local residents and second-home owners weighed in.
Supporters of the vehicles say campaigners are elitist and only a few tracks are given over to the 4x4s, which give access to the Lake District to people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy its beauty, including those with restricted mobility.
One of the highest profile 4x4 users is Windermerebased leisure vehicle company Kankku. Their driver/ranger Nick Fieldhouse welcomed the LDNPA’s new committee.
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