Residents of Silverdale are worried about newly-revealed plans which they think may pollute a lake and ruin its beautiful environment.
Sarah Fishwick, who has lived in the area for more than 50 years, and other villagers have spoken out after discovering that Natural England wants to install sluice gates to control water levels at Little Hawes Water near Hawes Water lake.
Natural England, the government’s adviser on the environment, also wants to chop down a plantation of nearby trees. As the area forms part of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - one of 46 such designated cherished landscapes of beautiful wildlife in the UK - worried residents are demanding answers from the authorities.
“This is a lovely area,” said Sarah.
“We think the plans don’t seem to have any common sense about what’s good for the area or the environment. And people don’t even know that it’s happening.
“Natural England intend to raise the level of Little Hawes Water but have not produced any information to show that the water will stay where they want.
“I’m concerned that the water will find another way around the sluice and affect other parts of the area.”
Stephen Lawton, of nearby Hawes Villa campervan site, has also written to Natural England worried about how the removal of trees would affect his own land. Mr Lawton says it would put his own yew, ash, silver birch, hazzle and oak trees at risk of blowing over as there will be no protection for them.
“There is no consideration for how the public is going to react,” said Sarah.
“If they take those trees out it will be a quagmire. They need to do it gradually.”
But Ann Kitchen, a Natural England volunteer, said she and other volunteers were “thrilled” that the work would be taking place.
“For many years now I and the other volunteers have been pulling up beech, pine and birch seedlings, cutting back encroaching bracken and bramble, removing the thick thatch to allow these plants to survive,” she said.
“All these things were done by grazing cattle, deer and rabbits before the new boardwalk was put in around 12 years ago. This fragmented the land so that grazing was impossible.
“Last year we talked to the warden to say that we were losing the battle and that unless grazing could be bought back, the new board walk removed and the old one repaired and the scrub and encroaching trees removed we were sure that in a few years the plants would have disappeared.
“Putting the stream between Little Haweswater and Hawes Water into a culvert with a sluice will allow the water from Little Hawes Water to be held back in times of extreme rain stopping Hawes Water rising and affecting the properties around the edge. Because the trees were planted very close together so they could be harvested in 50 or 60 years they have grown tall and spindly. Several have already fallen and the beech mast is a real problem. Cutting them down and removing the timber will allow the grass and flowers to spread back and give a viable grazing area.”
A Natural England spokesman said: “Over the last two years Natural England has been working to restore wetland habitat within the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve.
“While NE is planning to remove a small area of beech trees in the reserve, this is part of wider plans to protect wildlife and restore the rare and protected grassland and peatland habitats the area is known for – while also improving disabled access to the area. As part of this project, a single small sluice has also been introduced to raise the water levels within a small wetland in the reserve. The water levels of the wider Haweswater lake will not be affected as a result of this. Natural England has been carrying out regular engagement with the local community on its plans and will continue to seek views from all those with a vested interest.”