Controversial Catbells carpark causes Lakes row

  • Video report by Tim Backshall

A row has broken out about a planning application in a visitor hot spot near Keswick.

Cat Bells, close to Derwentwater, is one of the most popular mountains in the Lake District. However, there's very little little official car parking for walkers to use, meaning many people just park wherever they can, clogging up these roads and causing problems for local people.

As a result, the nearby village of Portinscale and the roads that lead into it suffer from huge numbers of visitor traffic and often suffer parking chaos.

The national park now attracts 20 million people a year, the vast majority arriving by car. Large numbers are expected again this summer if the easing of Covid restrictions goes to plan. In one very popular area some see a new car park as being vital but others argue that getting people out of their cars has to be the solution.

Now Michael Anderton, a local landowner has come up with a plan for a new car park - but it's proving controversial. It would be situated at Ullock Moss, close to the village of Portinscale, about a mile from the start of the walk up Catbells. As well as more than a hundred parking spaces it would provide toilets and a shuttle bus to take people to the start of the walk.

Some locals agree a car park would ease the problems caused by so many visitors driving here. 

Debbie & John Gravett told ITV's Tim Backshall, "It was very dangerous last year, seeing the cars parked just everywhere basically. People not having any car parks that were designated so they were just leaving the cars on the road. We've lived here for 21 years. It gets busier every year. Last summer incredibly busy, there was nowhere for people to park. It just became totally chaotic." 

David Williamson from the nearby Derwent Water Marina says there's some uncertainty about whether creating a new car park really is the best direction of travel, "I've got very mixed feelings if I'm honest. In my mind we haven't really found a solution to marrying the needs of people who want to bring their private car to carry all their equipment, camping, leisure activity equipment. When they visit the Lake District we need to marry that need to the provision of proper public transport. I'm not convinced a new car park is the answer." 

The Friends of the Lake District is objecting to the plan and says it wants to see greener solutions. It says a car park will set a precedent which could have a major bearing on the future of the Lake District.

"In many ways we really do need to start looking forward to alternatives, to get people out of their cars in the first place, to avoid harming the landscape. Creating a new bus link, some have suggested, around Derwent Water with electric buses for example and then there's greater use of the launch that lots of people happily enjoy from Keswick to almost the foot of Cat Bells." 

The National Park Authority say could make a decision as early as April.