The National Trust is looking at banning car use in some parts of the Lake District, particularly around Scafell Pike.
With popular areas of the park suffering from congestion, the charity is in talks with the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Highways about the possibility of creating a car-free zone near Scafell, the tallest peak in England.
Traffic congestion is a problem in popular areas of the park, which attract tens of millions of visitors every year, with figures from 2015 suggesting that about 82% use a car to get to their destination. In particular, the village of Seathwaite, at the foot of Scafell Pike, can at times turn into a parking lot, as people leave their car there to go and stand atop the Lake District’s highest mountain.
This, acknowledges the National Trust on its website, ‘causes access problems for people who live [in the village], including farmers and potentially emergency vehicles.’
The charity has long encouraged visitors to be sensible about parking: ‘If you turn up and find that you can’t easily park at Seathwaite without being confident a fire engine or tractor and trailer could easily pass, please find an alternative place to park,’ it recommends on its website.
Other suggestions include looking for alternative places where visitors can leave their car, such as the Trust’s own car parks at Seatoller and Borrowdale, where money raised through fees goes towards protecting the local landscape, or taking public transport from Keswick.
However, the issue may need a more drastic solution and the charity has been working ‘behind the scenes’ with the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Highways to try and find one. One of the possibilities under consideration is a car ban in Seathwaite and, potentially, in other busy areas within the park.
‘We need to address traffic issues in the national park,’ the National Trust general manager for the North Lakes, Thomas Burditt, told The Times. ‘Car-free zones are an option we are considering. We are in discussions with residents, the Highways Agency and the parish council.’
The proposal has been welcomed by local people (who would still be able to continue using their car under the plans) but ramblers told the Times the introduction of car-free zones would be ‘a big blow’.
Other ideas that have been mooted include encouraging people to access the park via electric bikes, boats and buses.
The National Trust will present possible options to solve to the congestion problem at a conference tomorrow and looks set to open a consultation on it after Christmas.