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Bridge approved near waterfall despite visitor hotspot concerns

Tuesday, 30 April 2024 16:04

By Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter

Cars parked alongside the side of the road near Cautley Spout waterfall Picture: Google

A new multi-user bridge to increase access for horse riders, disabled and children near England’s highest cascade waterfall has been approved amid warnings the area was already overwhelmed by visitors.

Ahead of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee pushing forward the authority’s scheme across the River Rawthey close to the 650ft Cautley Spout waterfall, members highlighted concerns the bridge could also open access for motocross riders to unlawfully ride on paths.

However, the authority’s officers told the meeting replacing the existing footbridge near the Cross Keys Temperance Inn and steep steps leading to it with a road level full accessible bridleway bridge with multi-user access capabilities was needed to open 700m of paths that lead to Cautley Beck valley.

They said the aim of the 2.5m-wide walkway bridge was not to increase visitor numbers, but rather to make the location more accessible to a
broader range of the public, and to upgrade the crossing point to bridleway standards, in line with its existing designation.

They said for that reason no new parking spaces were being proposed beside the ten parking spaces at the site, which is a popular starting point for walks.

Sedbergh Parish Council had backed what it described as a “significant improvement in terms of access to an important local landmark”, but raised concerns the scheme did not feature an increase in off-road parking.

A resident told the meeting while the paths on the other side of the bridge would need upgrading to be suitable for pushchairs and horse riders had rarely used the bridleway, the group of users that the wider bridge would interest most would be motocross bike riders.
He said such was the existing popularity of the area as many as 50 cars had recently been counted parked on the road, so increasing access across the river would exacerbate road safety issues in an area which had seen a marked increase in visitors to a level which the area had not been able to absorb.

The resident said: “There is not even enough parking for the current visitors. The police have put up cones to prevent the most dangerous parking. Nevertheless, cars are parked right along the road in both directions on both sides directly by the bridge.

“We have lost count of the number of the near-misses we have witnessed. Of course, a more accessible bridge is going to attract more visitors.

“In truth, no one knows the extra amount of visitors this new bridge will attract. One thing is clear, the new bridge will be a Pandora’s box.”

Ahead of voting to approve the new bridge, several members said while they wanted to improve access for certain groups of users, particularly those of varying abilities, it was inevitable that a wider bridge would attract more visitors to the area.

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