National Trust criticised for its ‘very disappointing’ plans to build biggest car park in the Peak District

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Plans for the Peak District’s biggest car park have been described as “organisational thuggery” and “making a mockery” of the Trust’s pledge to be net zero by 2030

The National Trust has been criticised for its “concerning” and “disappointing” plans to build the Peak District’s biggest car park while it pledges to be net carbon zero by 2030.

The new plans include the development of a 1,065-space car park at Lyme Park, a stately home set in 560 hectares (1,400 acres) on the fringes of the national park.

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Lyme Park is located just outside Greater Manchester, and has been home to the Legh family for more than 600 years. It was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1946 “for the health, education and delight of the people”.

Around 300,000 people a year visit the historic hunting estate and it is popular for its deer and reflecting lake. It is also where the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which starred Colin Firth was filmed.

Most visitors drive to Lyme via the A6, with 199,945 vehicles arriving in 2019. It is free to walk or cycle into the park, but the National Trust charges all non-members who arrive by car with prices currently at £6 per adult and £3 a child.

National Trust slammed for plans to build huge Peak District car park. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock) National Trust slammed for plans to build huge Peak District car park. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock)
National Trust slammed for plans to build huge Peak District car park. (Photo: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock) | NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock

The National Trust said it was not adding any new parking spaces overall, but admitted that 670 of its current “overflow” spaces on grass could only be used in good weather.

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The new car park will be built near one of the most popular walking and cycling routes into Lyme, at West Park Gate.

The plans do not include any extra provision for those arriving on bikes which have prompted concerns about pedestrian and cycle safety.

‘It is organisational thuggery’

A petition has been drawn up opposing the Trust’s Lyme car park relocation and expansion plans as it would cause a “major net loss of green space, even more traffic on local roads, even more cars travelling even further through the park.”

The petition is calling on the organisation to withdraw the “ill-considered” plan and come up with an alternative which “truly reduces the impact of motor vehicles on this special place.”

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Those who signed up to the petition shared their opinions and thoughts on the trust’s plans.

Natalie Abbott from Macclesfield said: “I’ve been a member of the National Trust for years and consider this proposal to have been very badly thought through and very disappointing at a time when organisations like the national trust should lead the way in actions to tackle climate change and come up with innovative measures to increase active travel.”

Chris Gray said: “The plans will destroy a much loved and needed walking route through a particularly attractive part of the park. It is organisational thuggery.

“I would rather there was much better provision for transport from Disley station.”

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Dean Belfield added that there is “no justification at all for this”, while Julie Royle said it “makes a mockery of any promises the trust has made about sustainability”.

Harry Gray, of Walk Ride Greater Manchester, a walking and cycling campaign group, said: “It’s concerning how reliant the National Trust is on a car-dependent business model.

“It is time to invest in greener transport modes, such as better access for Active Travel, as well as park and ride links to the nearby train station. The National Trust claims it is ‘part of the global fight against climate change’ – yet its actions on the ground speak otherwise.”

Tanya Braun, the director of policy and communications at Living Streets, a national walking charity, said: We need to stop designing places around cars and start thinking about what people want and need. It’s disappointing that there are no accompanying plans to improve access for people walking.

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“Adding in safe and accessible walking routes will enable more people to choose to walk, helping to cut congestion and air pollution. Without improving options for more sustainable transport modes, it will force people into their cars and exclude those without access to one from enjoying National Trust properties.”

Natural England chose not to object to the new car park, believing “the proposed development will not have significant adverse impacts on statutorily protected nature conservation sites or landscapes”.

More than 150 objections have been lodged on the planning application, with the deadline to comment on the application recently extended to 9 May.

A National Trust spokesperson said: “Lyme currently has a total of 1,000 car parking spaces, but many cannot be used during wet weather. We are not increasing the overall number of spaces but we are upgrading facilities and infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather events.

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“We’ve carried out preliminary ecological surveys to minimise any impact and will be reverting the existing car park to rich grassland habitat. In previous trials, park and ride hasn’t reduced the overall number of visitors arriving by car, but we will continue working with groups and individuals to find more sustainable ways that people can travel to Lyme.”

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