Toll road opened in Upper Derwent in experiment to manage Peak traffic flow

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The Independent Online

After years of agonising over how to balance environmental protection with economic growth, the Peak District will begin creating the first toll road in a British national park this week.

After years of agonising over how to balance environmental protection with economic growth, the Peak District will begin creating the first toll road in a British national park this week.

The idyllic Upper Derwent Valley road, a route to some of Britain's most precious dry heather moors, with views enjoyed by two million people a year, will cost £3 to drive on.

The road is an inevitable result of the overwhelming appeal of the Peak District, which draws 500,000 cars a year to its 555 square miles of moors, limestone dales and plateaux. Of the world's national parks, only Mount Fuji in Japan is thought to attract more visitors.

Toll roads, considered the only answer to protect some areas of the Peak, are contentious among local businesses, hence the decision to test the idea on Upper Derwent.

The environmental arguments are difficult to resist. The Peak District, which first considered toll roads in 1995, is doing what it can to reduce the effects of 22 million visitor days a year on places such as Bakewell and Edale. It also provided £10,000 last week towards a £1m feasibility study into the reopening of the Matlock to Buxton railway line. The shift to rail is vital because one train can carry the equivalent of 60 lorryloads of limestone, which is mined in the Peak.

Other national parks have embarked on alternative strategies, with mixed results. Arguments erupted last month when 200 people packed a meeting called by the Snowdonia Green Key partnership, an alliance of the national park authority, local councils and the Wales tourist board, to discuss its draft traffic strategy.

An experimental scheme involving coning off lay-bys was ruined after residents moved the cones. One hotelier put up a "Welcome to Snowconia" sign. But in the North York Moors, the introduction of a Moorsbus network has saved an estimated 700,000 miles of car journeys, research revealed.

In Upper Derwent, where the toll road opens next spring, they've lived with noise since the Dambusters aircraft trained there.Now the locals, along with thesnipe and curlew can prepare for the quiet life.

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