PLANS to prevent cars damaging an historically important Dales beauty spot have been approved.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has backed proposals by the Ribblehead Commoners Committee to protect common land on Blea Moor from deterioration.

The site is owned by the Ingleborough Estate and contains the archaeological remains of a railway construction camp used during the building of the Settle to Carlisle railway between 1870 and 1875 - particularly during the construction of the Ribblehead Viaduct and Blea Moor Tunnel.

The importance of the site was confirmed by its inclusion on the schedule of ancient monuments.

For many years the land, at the junction of the B6479 and the B6255 at Ribblehead, has been a popular stopping off point for visitors, who use an informal lay-by to park up and admire the view.

It is used by tourists, cavers and walkers and is a popular place for picnics, for photographing the Ribblehead Viaduct and as a checkpoint for walkers tackling the Three Peaks.

However the influx of visitors has caused the land to deteriorate and the secretary of Ribblehead graziers called a meeting to draw attention to the situation in 1997.

The Ribblehead Commoners Committee was subsequently formed comprising locals, conservationists, graziers and national park members. The committee's concern focussed on uncontrolled parking on the scheduled historic monuments and pasture land instead of the lay-by, and campers damaging the area and leaving litter.

There have also been complaints about the destruction of peat areas by scramble bikes.

Hilary Fenten told the national park committee the area was one of the most beautiful parts of the country and was suffering from neglect. She added that the aim was not to ban the public but to care for the landscape.

A planning officer's report added: "The sheer volume of traffic at peak times means that the informal lay-by soon fills up and vehicles park on the verges and further on the common. This is causing considerable damage to the Scheduled Ancient Monument through the erosion of physical remains."

Members backed the Commoners Committee proposals that work be carried out to prevent unauthorised parking, including the construction of earth bunds (raised bumps) along the roadside and to drain and re-surface the lay-by.

Although the plans were generally welcomed concern was raised about their short-sightedness, especially since the application had previously been deferred by members who argued more provision should be made for car parking in the area.

Jerry Pearlman said the plans were only half the solution and that somewhere needed to be found for people to park. John Blackie added that the proposal would simply move the damage elsewhere.

They were reminded, however, that a survey showed only 25 per cent of cars would be displaced elsewhere.

Hazel Haygarth said: "I think it's very important that something is done soon to prevent damage happening at Ribblehead. It seems that to put off remedying the current problems while we look at other issues is not going the right way about things.

"I think it's very important to take up this issue now and do something about it."

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