Lake District 'needs' a leisure dome of its own

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The Independent Online

The controversial ban on high-speed boats and waterskiers on Lake Windermere will cost the local economy more than £23m in lost tourist revenue.

Now one of the nation's most serene natural environments is considering plans to build a Leisuredome and 3D cinema in an attempt to recoup the shortfall.

A study commissioned by the Lake District National Park and Cumbria Tourist Board, among others, has concluded that a powerful "artificial" attraction for young visitors and families is needed to replace the 175 to 210 jobs which will be lost through the speed ban.

Introduction of a 10mph speed limit on the lake was delayed until March 2005 by Chris Mullin, a former environment minister, to give local leisure businesses time to prepare for the expected loss of revenue. But on the evidence of 15 months since it was announced, it seems the powerboaters and jet-skiers are already deserting the area. Traders report that many have moved out in search of new berths, mainly in the Welsh resorts of Bala and Trearddur Bay, Anglesey. In the past two years, 23 per cent of the lake's moorings have gone.

The average daily spend of wealthy powerboat owners and waterskiers is £400, against an estimated £15 a day spent by many day-trippers, according to the tourist board. The speed limit, which was introduced after 10 years of debate, a £1m public inquiry and a judicial review, has exacerbated an economic decline in Bowness. The town dropped from 16th to 50th in a list of Britain's most profitable towns compiled last month by the information solutions company Experian.

Inquiries at tourist information centres were down 3.6 per cent on last year and accommodation bookings down 6.9 per cent before the foot-and-mouth epidemic, which has struck off 40 per cent of revenue from many shops and restaurants.

Cumbria Tourist Board estimates it needs £18m for a "re-marketing" drive for the area over the next five years to deal with the consequences of foot-and-mouth. It has £250,000 from the English Tourism Council and received notification of £1.75m regional development agency money last week.

A "Leisuredome", with laser-guns, 3D films and skateboarding will "provide high-adrenaline activities as an alternative to water-skiing," the report states. Other proposed attractions include a new "Windermere waterbus", a cycle trail and awalking trail called "the Windermere Way".

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