Derbyshire Dales District Council has approved a plan to keep one of the region’s premier tourist attractions easily accessible to the public.
At a meeting on Thursday, January 24, councillors voted to transfer ownership of a stretch of land near Matlock Bath station to the Heights of Abraham.
It follows Network Rail’s decision to permanently close the railway level-crossing on approach to the station, which has blocked the main public access to the cable car which transports visitors across the valley to the hilltop park.
Council chief executive Paul Wilson said: “The level crossing was closed by Network Rail despite opposition from this council, Derbyshire County Council and the Heights of Abraham themselves.
“The attraction provides much economic benefit to the Derbyshire Dales, and our officers have been working with the Heights of Abraham to try to get to a solution.”
The land deal will see the Heights pay the council £10,000 plus surveyor and legal costs for a single track roadway running alongside the river, which originally provided vehicular access to a now disused colour works site.
The tourist attraction plans to redevelop the track into an access route of a suitably high standard to match the rest of its estate.
The council will retain rights over the road for pedestrian access between the station car park and public footpaths to the A6 and Starkholmes.
That will also allow for access in the event of any possible future development on the colour works site or land around the river.
Heights of Abraham chairman Andrew Pugh said: “This council initiative has unlocked over half a million pounds of joint financial investment from Network Rail and the Heights of Abraham.
“We are very grateful to all parties for their support in creating a sustainable future for tourism in the area. This project will provide excellent public access for all.”
The decision to close the level-crossing was reportedly taken on safety grounds after video footage emerged of people stopping in the middle of the rail track to take photos.
Without a new gateway, visitors to the Heights of Abraham would be forced to take a lengthy detour via two bridges and narrow pavements on the A6 – presenting safety risks and accessibility barriers.
Local ward councillor Garry Purdy said: “This decision threatened a billion pound business. It’s been very worrying and I am very grateful it has been sorted out.”