Marquess of Bath in National Trust row over Cheddar Gorge cable car

The Marquess of Bath has been causing a stir over his plans to build a cable car through the middle of the Cheddar Gorge valley in Somerset - in a bid to boost falling tourist revenues.

The Marquess, owner of the Longleat Estate, who is often seen as a controversial figure with his 75 'wifelets' and Karma Sutra mural-clad bedroom, has become engaged in a battle with the National Trust over his plans.

Lord Bath owns the south side of the gorge, which boasts its world-famous caves, while the National Trust owns the north.

The group has said that Lord Bath's plan for the £10m, 18-gondala cable car will spoil the view and cheapen the experience, creating a "fairground ride" that will make the area feel more like an amusement park.

The National Trust has denied permission for the cable car to run through its section of the gorge, but cannot stop Lord Bath's plans to run it through 600 metres of the three-mile gorge.

Helen Bonser-Wilton, assistant director of operations at the National Trust, told the Independent: "This is the equivalent to trying to build a cable car in front of Buckingham Palace.

"Cheddar Gorge is of international importance. There are better ways of driving business without destroying the very asset people come to see. It is far better to retain the uniqueness of the place."

But Hugh Cornwell, director of Cheddar Gorge and Caves for Lord Bath, said the estate had to find new ways to attract tourists, as it is not funded by grants like the National Trust is.

Tourists pay up to £18.95 for access to the caves, but numbers have dropped from 400,000 a year in the 80s to 150,000 a year now.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Cornwell said: "Visually the cable car is a downside although the visual signature is quite small.

"Set against that are the economic and the wildlife benefits – because the income generated will allow us to do more to maintain the area.

"It all needs looking after and paying for and if we don't do it, what alternatives are there?"

Mr Cornwell added he hopes the cable car will be operational by Easter 2016.

Related articles

Camel chases off rhino at Longleat Safari Park

Longleat opens its doors to abused circus elephant