The Guardian (p6) reports that the decision concludes an eight-year battle between environmentalists, local residents, national park authorities, sport enthusiasts and businesses.
The spat has involved a 13-week public inquiry with 3,000 written representations, a controversial decision by the then Conservative environment secretary, John Gummer, to reject the recommendations, a high court appeal and a review by the department of the environment.
Chris Mullin, the environment minister who approved the law, said: 'I can understand that it will disappoint those who will no longer be able to enjoy the lake in power boats or on skis, and it will cause concern to some business. But I am satisfied the speed limit is justified.'
A press release from the DETR follows.
SPEED LIMIT WILL IMPROVE ENJOYMENT OF LAKE WINDERMERE - MULLIN
The days of power boats, and other fast motorised vessels, spoiling
the enjoyment of people on Lake Windermere are numbered, environment
minister Chris Mullin said yesterday as he approved a 10 miles per hour speed limit on the Lake. The decision will end long-standing
conflict, Mr Mullin explained. The limit will come into effect in
Mr Mullin said:
'This case has been running now for over seven years and it was time
it was brought to a conclusion. After the last government's decision
not to confirm the byelaws was quashed by the high court, we invited
further representations and considered all the evidence before
reaching this decision.
'I can understand it will disappoint those who will no longer be able
to enjoy the Lake in power boats or on skis, and it will cause
concern to some businesses. But I am satisfied that the speed limit
is justified and will bring benefits to very many people. I agree
with the conclusion of the Inspector who conducted a long inquiry
into the proposals in 1994/5 that power boating is fundamentally
incompatible with other uses of the lake'.
1. In July 1992, the Lake District Special Planning Board (now the
Lake District National Park Authority) made the Windermere
(Amendment) (No.2) Byelaws 1992.
Effect of the byelaws
2. The principal effect of the byelaws - made by the Lake District
National Park Authority - is to impose a speed limit of 10 mph on
power-driven vessels on the Lake, except for those relatively small
areas where a 6mph limit already applies. The speed limit will come
into effect in March 2005. That will end high-speed power-boating and
water-skiing on Windermere.
History of the case
3. The byelaws were made under section 13 of the Countryside Act
1968. Before byelaws under that Act take effect they need to be
confirmed by the Secretary of State. At the time the byelaws were
originally considered, there were objections and a public inquiry was
4. At the 48-day inquiry there was considerable support for the
byelaws and, when the inspector submitted his report in February
1996, he recommended that the byelaws should be confirmed. The then
Secretary of State disagreed and decided in August 1996 not to
confirm the byelaws.
5. The Lake District Special Planning Board sought judicial review
of the Secretary of State's decision in November 1996. The main
ground of challenge was the inadequacy of the reasons given for the
decision. The High Court agreed with the Special Planning Board and
quashed the decision not to confirm the byelaws on 26 November 1997.
6. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
subsequently invited further representations from interested parties.
Today's decision was made on the basis of those further
representations and the previous evidence. A copy of the decision
letter is attached.
Press Enquiries: 020 7944 3041; out of hours: 020 7944 5925 or 5945
Public Enquiries Unit: 020 7944 3000 Web Site: http://www.detr.gov.uk
FROM CHRIS MULLIN MP
PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE
DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS
LONDON SW1E 5DU
TEL: 0171 890 3015
FAX: 0171 890 4359
29 February 2000
C J Chapman Esq
Lake District National Park Authority
Dear Mr Chapman,
WINDERMERE NAVIGATION (AMENDMENT) (NO 2) BYELAWS 1992
1. I am directed by the Secretary of State for the Environment to
inform you that I have decided to confirm the byelaws relating to
Lake Windermere made by the Lake District National Park Authority
('the LDNPA'), formerly the Lake District Special Planning Board,
under section 13 of the Countryside Act 1968 on 7 July 1992. I am
returning the byelaws, which have now been confirmed.
2. The byelaws will amend and qualify the extant Windermere
Navigation Byelaws 1986. Their principal practical effect is to
impose, in respect of the whole surface of the lake except for those
relatively small areas where a 6 mph speed limit already applies, a
speed limit for power-driven vessels of 10 mph at all times, to take
effect after the expiry of a period of five years from the coming
into operation of the new byelaws. The byelaws will come into
operation on 29 March 2000 and the new speed limit will take effect
on 29 March 2005.
3. I have carefully considered the report of 12 February 1996 of the
public local inquiry into the byelaws, which was established under
section 250(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 and conducted by Mr.
Alun Aylesbury. Mr. Aylesbury concluded that the byelaws should be
confirmed, subject to an exception to allow Records Week to continue.
The previous Secretary of State did not accept the Inspector's
recommendation and decided against confirming the byelaws. This
decision was successfully challenged by the LDNPA and the byelaws
were returned to the Secretary of State for redetermination. The
Secretary of State invited further views on whether the byelaws
should be confirmed.
4. Windermere is one of the few significant areas of non-tidal
water in England with a public right of navigation. As such, the lake
is available (subject to boat registration fees, etc.) to the boating
public at large and can currently be used, without general
registration, for a wide range of water-based recreation. It was
accepted at the inquiry, by the LDNPA, the supporters of the byelaws
and the objectors, that the effect of the byelaws, if confirmed,
would be to cause fast power boating to cease on Windermere, together
with associated activities, of which water-skiing was the most
5. The Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. John Prescott MP, the
Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions,
has taken no part in this decision, because he commented earlier on
conditions on the lake. He has authorised me, as the Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State, to make the decision on his behalf.
Current Government policy
6. The Inspector set out the current Government policy at IR 9.20
onwards. The inquiry was able to take account of the Environment Bill
1994, which subsequently became the Environment Act 1995 without
material changes relevant to this case. Section 61 of the Act
restated the twin purposes of National Parks as:
a) conserving and enhancing [their] natural beauty, wildlife and
cultural heritage; and
b) promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of
[their] special qualities by the public.
If it appears that there is conflict between these two purposes,
the National Park Authority is expected to give greater weight to the
first. National Park Authorities are also required to 'seek to foster
the economic and social well-being of [their] local communities.'
7. Since the Inspector reported, the policy background has not
changed significantly. DOE Circular 12/96, 'Environment Act 1995,
Part III, National Parks' dealt with the implementation of the Act.
Paragraphs 13 and 14 are particularly relevant:
'13. The National Park Authorities should continue to promote the
widest range of opportunities for recreation to reflect the variety
of ways in which the Parks can be enjoyed. But the conservation
values which the Parks represent and which have led to so many
appreciating their special qualities must be fully respected. The
National Park Authorities will need to take into account the Parks'
limited environmental capacity. It will not be appropriate for all
forms of recreation to take place in every part of the Parks and the
Government accepts that some recreational activities could cause
unacceptable damage or disturbance to their natural beauty, wildlife
or cultural heritage. The intrusive nature of some recreational
activities or the damage they cause to conservation interests may
unacceptably affect other people's understanding and enjoyment of the
14. Nevertheless the Government does not accept that particular
activities should be excluded from throughout the Parks as a matter
of principle. They contain a variety of landscapes, capable of
accepting and absorbing many different types of leisure activity. In
most instances, it should be possible to reconcile any conflict which
may arise by co-operation between relevant interests and the National
Park Authorities and through careful planning and positive management
Main issues - inquiry
8. The Inspector's overriding conclusion (I.R 9.62) was that there
was a fundamental problem of incompatibility, in the confined area of
the lake, between water-skiing and high speed power boating and other
legitimate and lower key forms of water-based recreation. The
problem was worse in crowded conditions but there was an inherent
conflict at all times when the two categories of use were occurring.
I agree with this conclusion on the evidence put to the Inspector.
Alternatives to the proposed byelaws
9. Management Plan - The Inspector concluded, and I agree, that the
Alternative Management Plan put to the inquiry did not address the
central problem, which was the inherent incompatibility in a confined
area between, on the one hand, speedboating (including water-skiing)
and almost all the other reasonable recreational uses of the lake.
10. Temporal and spatial zoning - The Inspector concluded and
rejected (IR 9.191 - 9.201 and 9.64 - 9.67) the concepts of spatial
or temporal 'zoning'. The Inspector concluded, and I agree, that
spatial zoning - to create an area where the speed limit would not
apply - would not be desirable or readily workable. Because there is
a general right of navigation on Windermere, spatial zoning for water
sports could not exclude other activities, unless there was a change
in the legislation covering the lake. A small derestricted zone would
become extremely crowded and unsafe, while a large one would make
little difference to current conditions Temporal zoning would allow
navigation at high speeds at certain times. The Inspector considered,
and I agree, that temporal zoning would still lead to conflict and to
noise problems. 'Open' periods which were attractive to power boats
would be likely to be attractive to other users too.
11. Single statutory authority - The Inspector considered (IR 9.187
- 9.190) the suggestion of a single statutory authority with specific
responsibility for control over the Lake. The Inspector stated, and I
agree, that nothing raised at the inquiry convinced him that there
should be a change in the present state of control of the lake.
12. The Inspector recommended that an exception from the byelaws
should be granted for Records Week (I.R 9.215). However, I have no
power to amend the byelaws and the LDNPA have not proposed new draft
byelaws which would make this exception. I have therefore had to
consider whether or not to confirm the draft byelaws as they stand. I
consider that overall the benefit of introduction of the byelaws
would outweigh the fact that Records Week would not be able to take
place once the speed limit came into effect. It may be noted that, in
the period before the byelaws come into effect, it would be open to
the organisers of Records Week to seek to persuade the LDNPA to
introduce an amendment to the byelaws to enable an exception to be
made to preserve Records Week.
Effect on local economy
13. The Inspector considered that the strong need for the speed
limit had to be balanced against possible limited economic disruption
(I.R 9.166). He found the overall balance clearly in favour of
confirmation of the byelaws. I agree with this conclusion. It is
difficult to predict what the economic conditions will be when the
speed limit comes into effect because that will not be for five years
from the coming into operation of these byelaws. It is possible that
the tourist profile in the region may alter as a result of the
byelaws but it is not clear whether this will result in a net
economic loss or a gain. More people may be attracted to engage in
water-based recreational activities other than fast power boating
(including water-skiing) on a quieter Windermere, and other
businesses (such as activity-centred holidays) could develop.
Businesses have already had several years' notice of the likelihood
of such a change, and will have a further five year period from the
coming into effect of the byelaws, to prepare for the withdrawal of
the fast power boat market from the area.
Loss of facilities
14. The Inspector looked at the consequences in terms of
alternative sites for power boat racing, recreational fast power
boating, water-skiing and disabled skiing (I.R 9.116 - 9.140). I have
also taken into consideration Sport England's subsequent
representations, which refer to a reduction in the opportunities for
motorised water sports in the UK since 1995. However, there is no
reason why the Lake District should be expected to accommodate every
recreational activity for which there is demand. Since the Three
Lakes Inquiry in 1976 recommended that Lake Windermere could continue
to be used for motorised water sports, the lake has become very much
more crowded and the Inspector was entitled to find that power
boating is no longer a suitable activity in that environment.
Wash, noise and environmental effect
15. The Inspector considered the consequences of wash, noise and
the environmental effect (I.R 9.68 - 9.101). He concluded, and I
agree, that noise reduction in itself is not one of the main
justifications for the speed limit. The Inspector concluded, and I
agree, that apart from its contribution to the generally intimidating
character of the lake, particularly at busy times, the phenomenon of
'high speed wash' did not point unequivocally to one solution or
another interms of the debate about the speed limit. The Inspector
was informed that the water in Windermere has consistently been found
to be of a high standard and I agree with his conclusion that, on the
evidence, pollution was not a significant factor in the decision
whether or not to confirm the byelaws. The Inspector also concluded,
and I agree, that wildlife issues were not a significant factor in
the decision to be made on the speed limit.
Material considerations arising since the inquiry
16. A large number of representations were received after the
inquiry. However, very few raised significant new issues. The
reduction in alternative sites has already been mentioned in
paragraph 14 above. Other material points raised are considered in
the following paragraphs.
Use of the lake
17. The English Sports Council (now Sport England) submitted the
Windermere Lake Patrol Joint Annual Reports for 1995, 1996 and 1997.
These contained information on conditions on the lake since the
inquiry. They showed that since 1992 there had been some reduction in
the number of 'incidents', although the downward trend slowed between
1994 and 1996, with an increase in 1997. Powered craft are in a
minority on the lake, but were involved in 70 out of 152 boating
incidents in that year. Further, the 1997 report said that lake usage
increased throughout the year, with personal watercraft activity and
the use of large motor cruisers increasing dramatically. The average
size of moored vessels was increasing.
18. Having considered these reports carefully, I have concluded
that conditions on the lake have not improved significantly since the
Inspector examined them.
Alternative Management Plan and Indicative Draft Byelaws
19. Careful consideration has been given to the revised Alternative
Management Plan ('the revised AMP'), which was prepared by Sport
England, the Royal Yachting Association, the British Water Ski
Federation and the Windermere Commercial Lake Users' Group, and the
Indicative Draft Byelaws prepared by the Royal Yachting Association.
The Indicative Draft Byelaws were prepared to demonstrate how the
main provisions of the revised AMP could be given legal effect. The
revised AMP was not intended to be a definitive solution but sought
to illustrate the scope for management on the lake.
20. The revised AMP contained some of the same elements as the
Alternative Management Plan considered by the Inspector. For example,
only licensed boats and drivers would be allowed to travel at high
speed on the lake and there would be a Code of Conduct. Additional
proposals included the introduction of a booking system to limit the
number of boats allowed to exceed the speed limit to 200 at any one
time between April and November. At Bank Holidays in this period the
speed limit would be allowed to be exceeded only in the early morning
and between 17.00 and sunset. There would also be a Lake Master and
an advisory Motorised Water Sports Forum.
LDNPA's response to the revised AMP
21. All relevant representations, including the revised AMP, were
circulated to all parties for comment. The LDNPA made a number of
criticisms of the proposals. Some of the Authority's objections were
practical - they were concerned, for example, about whether the
proposals could be effectively enforced and about the cost of
enforcing any management plan. They also expressed doubts about the
legality of imposing a charge for booking a 'slot' on the lake.
22. The LDNPA also criticised the principles underlying the proposals
in the revised AMP. They suggested, for example, that the Plan was
unlikely to result in a fair allocation of the right to exceed the
speed limit. Further, they suggested that the emergence of a minority
group of users enjoying privileged access at the expense of the
enjoyment of the majority of users would create a regrettable
precedent, at odds with the philosophy of the National Park movement.
The LDNPA suggested the main thrust of the English Sports Council's
statement seemed to be that power boats should take precedence over
other activities, which could go to other lakes in the National Park.
Representations received regarding the LDNPA's response
23. Sport England and the other proponents of the revised AMP did
not accept the LDNPA's criticisms. They submitted independent
Counsel's advice on the legality of the charging proposals and
suggested that the initial costs of the new system might be paid for
from one of the Lottery Good Causes. They pointed out that the
revised AMP proposed a maximum figure of 200 for the number of boats
able to travel at more than 10mph at any one time because this was
the figure Lake Wardens had indicated, in informal discussions, that
they regarded as reasonable and manageable. In practice, fewer boats
would be travelling at this speed at any one time because of rest
periods and other periods of inactivity during a 'slot'. Other points
made clarified how the revised AMP could be implemented and enforced,
rebutting the LDNPA's detailed criticisms.
Comments on the revised AMP
24. I have considered carefully the revised AMP, the Indicative Draft
Byelaws and the representations received about them. I have reached
no conclusions on the points made about the enforceability and
legality of the proposals because of the need to address first the
central issue. This is whether or not the revised AMP would solve the
fundamental problem identified by the Inspector of the
incompatibility between power boating and other uses. I have
concluded that it would not do so: the presence of up to 200 fast
power boats on the lake would continue to be a significant deterrent
to 'lower key' recreational users at times when it is likely they
also would desire to use the lake. Given the thought which has been
given to addressing the issues on all sides, but without a
satisfactory alternative solution being put forward, I have also
concluded that the conflict of uses on Lake Windermere is not one
which is likely to be reconciled by co-operation and through careful
planning and management strategies. Para 14 of DOE Circular 12/96
(paragraph 7 refers) recognises that such an approach will only work
in most, not all, instances. I do not consider that I should refuse
to confirm the byelaws on the grounds that the revised AMP has been
put forward by objectors.
25. Representations have been received stating that the South
Lakeland District Council should have allowed the Lake Wardens (who
are employed by them) to give evidence at the inquiry. I agree with
the Inspector's conclusion (I.R 5.2.4) on the question of the Lake
Wardens' non-attendance. The Inspector was well aware that there were
differing views about conditions on the lake and took these into
account before deciding that speeds in excess of 10 mph were not
compatible with water-based recreational uses, apart from power
boating, water-skiing and the like. Subsequent to the inquiry, a
sworn statement from one of the former Lake Wardens (Mr Quartermaine)
was provided by Sport England and copied to all interested parties.
Mr Quartermaine stated that in his view Lake Windermere is a lake
upon which water-skiing and power boating in excess of 10 mph can be
permitted and accommodated. However, this evidence does not seem to
me to add significantly to the views considered by the Inspector. I
agree with his conclusions that speeds in excess of 10 mph are not
compatible with 'lower key' recreational uses.
LDNPA involvement in discussions.
26. Representations have also been received stating that the LDNPA
should have entered into discussions with the Windermere Commercial
Lake Users' Group and others to discuss the revised AMP. The
previous Secretary of State expressed the wish that the parties
concerned should explore, more extensively than they had done before,
ways in which management arrangements might be worked up to enable
the various activities on the lake to continue to co-exist. However,
I recognise that power boating on Lake Windermere has been a problem
for many years and there has been extensive public debate involving
the LDNPA over a long period. Between 1976 (when a previous inquiry
decided, after much deliberation, that it might continue) and 1991,
there was a threefold increase in power boating. The LDNPA made the
byelaws in 1992 only after the problems had been under discussion for
a number of years and speed limits had been considered.
No power to impose an alternative solution
27. I have no power either to impose a management solution or to
amend the byelaws to incorporate any alternative option. I can only
confirm or refuse to confirm the byelaws. In any event, no other
satisfactory way of reconciling the conflicts on the lake has been
proposed and I do not consider that there is any reasonable prospect
of such reconciliation being achieved. Therefore I have confirmed the
28. I have had to consider whether or not to confirm the byelaws in
the knowledge that confirmation of them would, in practice, prevent
use of the lake for power boating and water-skiing. Balancing the
interests of one group of users against the conflicting interests of
a larger group of users wishing to use the lake for other forms of
water-based recreational activities, I have concluded that the
interests of the latter should prevail. I note that, by providing a
five year lapse before the new speed limit would come into effect, a
period is allowed for businesses and people who engage in power
boating and water skiing to make alternative arrangements and adjust
their expectations accordingly. Taking into account all the evidence,
I consider the speed limit which would be imposed by the byelaws
would be reasonable and effective.
29. In summary, having taken all representations into
consideration, I agree with the Inspector's recommendation. I have
therefore confirmed the byelaws. They will come into operation on the
29 March and the speed limit will come into effect five years later.
30. I am sending a copy of this letter to all those who submitted
written representations, together with a copy of the Inspector's
report to those who also gave evidence at the inquiry.
31. A copy of the Inspector's report can be obtained by contacting
the Countryside Division, Room 916, Tollgate House, Houlton Street,
Bristol BS2 9DJ. Alternatively, a copy of the Inspector's report and
this decision letter can be obtained from our website at