Plans for major luge track tourist attraction revealed for Eden

Computer generated image of the luge facility. Picture: Manning Elliott Partnership

Plans are in place for a major new tourist attraction to be built near Armathwaite — a luge track which would be the first in Europe if given planning permission.

The sledge-like activity in gravity-powered carts is a fast-growing tourist pastime in New Zealand, Singapore, China and Canada, but is yet to be introduced anywhere in the UK or Europe.

A planning application has been lodged with Eden District Council by Askham Hall owner Charles Lowther and Ullswater’s Quiet Site owner Daniel Holder.

They are seeking permission to change the use of land to create the attraction at Blaze Fell, part of Mr Lowther’s Nord Vue farm and equestrian center near Armathwaite.

A 500 meter long, three meter wide concrete track and electric chair lift would be installed on the fellside, with a large building at the top of the site containing a cafe, bar, kitchen, workshops, offices and first-floor viewing platform, along with parking for up to 122 vehicles and outdoor seating.

The luge track would run through existing woodland and use part of the old quarry track which served the 19th century Blaze Fell quarry.

Luge is a gravity-led activity in which users sit on a sledge-like platform and swoop down purpose-built tracks.

The proposed Eden track would take four to six minutes to go down and would sit along from a 20-lodge holiday development which Mr Lowther has already been given planning approval to build at the site.

The planning application was lodged with the council at the end of August and has already drawn objections from some local residents who are set to hold a public meeting this week.

Computer generated image of the luge facility. Picture: Manning Elliott Partnership

Armathwaite resident Belinda Quigley said residents fear it could ruin the peace and quiet of Armathwaite by attracting more visitors to the village. Mrs Quigley said the planning application forecast it could attract up to 1,000 visitors a day which would massively increase traffic on local roads, which she claimed are already the scene of frequent accidents.

Mrs Quigley said the village is already crammed with visitors, which has prompted the need for new car parking space.

“If you add in 1,000 cars a day, even if just a quarter of those come into the village, it will get out of hand. I don’t think it’s right for that site. I think Mr Lowther should be happy with the chalet park which isn’t even built yet and he promised would be discreet and quiet,” she said.

“It will spoil the peace and quiet of Armathwaite and will change it dramatically. Also the luge will be seen for thousands around. A three-metres wide concrete path all the way down will stand out from miles away. It’s a shame.”

However, Mr Lowther said the luge track could be “a lot of fun” and would compliment the lodge development that is being built at the site along with the existing equestrian center facilities.

He said the idea to develop it was the brainchild of Mr Holder whose daughter visited a luge track in New Zealand.

Mr Holder confirmed he has been looking for a suitable site for the past five years and the land at Nord Vue proved suitable with excellent transport links to the A6 and M6.

In response to residents’ initial concerns about an influx of traffic, Mr Lowther said visitors to the luge track would book online to get slots, meaning that there would be no influx of visitors at one time and it could equate to an increase of just one or two cars an hour.

Addressing the appearance he said the track will be screened by woodland with some of the trees planted 18 years ago and standing at up to eight meters high before they are mature.

“We would hope it will be successful, and the investment isn’t insignificant. Based on the concept of it and how popular it is in New Zealand, I can see it could be quite busy.”

Mr Holder added that they hope it will be a significant tourist attraction for the district and if planning is approved they would aim to open mid-summer next year. In line with The Quiet Site’s eco credentials, the new visitor attraction would have a strong focus on sustainability.

Mr Holder said: “Fully sustainable attractions in the UK are thin on the ground but this one ticks all the green boxes. It will be carbon neutral, energy positive, community positive, ecology positive, zero waste, have virtually no visual impact and little transport impact.”

Computer generated image of the luge facility. Picture: Manning Elliott Partnership

It is forecast the facility will create 10 full-time and 10 part-time jobs and will be open 9am to 5pm seven days a week including bank holidays.

To encourage community cohesion, free rides and discounts would be offered to local residents. Schools will also be invited for science classes to visit, with opportunities to learn about gravity, friction, kinetic and potential energy.

A consultation period on the planning application will run to October 16 and the application is currently set to be decided by Eden planning officers under delegated powers.

Objectors are expected to ask for the consultation period to be extended and will be requesting that the application instead goes before the council’s planning committee for consideration.

A public meeting about the plans has provisionally been set to take place at Armathwaite village hall at 6.30pm tomorrow.

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