Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bonington storms out of charity group over Zip wire decision

Sir Chris Bonington...not so sweet on Kendal based charity group.

Britain's foremost mountaineer, Sir Chris Bonington, sensationally resigned his role as Vice Chair of The Friends of the Lake District, after National Park planners once again, threw out a planning application from the Honister Slate Mine company to construct a zip wire from Black Star- close to the summit of 2.126' Fleetwith Pike-descending 1500' to the mine site at the head of Honister Pass.The original zip line planning application was instigated in 2010 by the then Honister Mine owner, Mark Weir who was tragically killed in the middle of the planning process when his private helicopter crashed close to the Honister Mine.

The controversial proceedings which at the time of the original planning application, were being recorded by filmmakers and broadcast on BBC4's National Park Stories in late 2011- See Something in the air-highlighted an increasingly acrimonious dispute between Mr Weir and his supporters in the tourist and leisure industry, and environmental campaigners. Most notably,The Friends of the Lake District who saw the development as having an adverse effect of the mountain's delicate ecology.

At the original planning enquiry in 2011, the elder statesman of UK mountaineering spoke in favour of the application and was  shown to be visibly perturbed when the application was thrown out. After the latest setback for the Honister mine company which prompted his resignation, Bonington was said to be 'appalled by the arguments put forward by the charity'. He went on to say,"I'm sad for Jan (Wilkinson), the owner of Honister, and all those at the mine that have turned it not just into a great visitor attraction, but something that is informative and educational. "The zip wire would have been something that would have given people a lot of enjoyment and excitement and would have been good for the Lake District as a whole."

Bonington's position in support of the controversial application put the mountaineer at odds with other mountaineering organisations to which he was attached; most notably The British Mountaineering Council who opposed the original plans.

While The Honister company and Sir Chris were condemning the planning decision, The Friends of the Lake District went on record to declare their satisfaction at the result of the process. The charity body put out a statement which read;"We are pleased that the Lake District National Park Authority members agreed that the scale of this proposal in this location was inappropriate and the open fell should remain free from man-made developments, protected for everyone’s benefit "This is the best decision for the Lake District’s wider tourism economy now and in the longer-term. “The decision reaffirms the previous refusal, recognizing that recreational activities reliant on man-made infrastructure and harmful to the landscape should not be allowed in sensitive locations. “Zip-wires and GoApe tree assault courses are best located in forest settings as they are in other parts of the UK.”

Company owner and widow of the late Mark Weir, Jan Wilkinson was bullish after the latest setback,declaring that she was 'just waiting for the paperwork to come through from the authority' before putting in an appeal against the decision.

Chris Bonington who is a long time resident of Hesket Newmarket in Cumbria has since been removed from the Kendal based Friends of the Lake District list of trustees on the charity's website.