A CAMPAIGN group is calling for a public inquiry after a national park granted permission for 44-tonne timber trucks to pass several thousand times over Britain’s most popular long-distance trail.

The Yorkshire Dales Society said it would press the Government to hold a Planning Inspectorate hearing into the Cam Forest Trust’s scheme to create a new track from the 240-hectare spruce forest in Wensleydale over the Roman way of Cam High Road for the heavy wagons.

The trust, which bought the forest last September, said the Forestry Commission requires the felling and replanting of the land to protect red squirrels.

It said by using timber wagons along the a mile of the Pennine Way and three miles of the Dales Way routes, the number and length of journeys to and from the forest would be reduced.

A trust spokesman said by enabling the restocking of Cam Forest with broad-leafed trees, the national park authority would meet its statutory purposes of conserving and enhancing beauty.

It has emerged that Lancaster University last month awarded a £600,000 contract until 2017 to the trust to deliver biomass fuel, as part of the university’s carbon cutting drive.

The call to hold a public inquiry comes days after a packed Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority meeting rejected pleas by the society and the Wensleydale branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England to defer its decision.

Before members unanimously granted the plan, Chris Armitage, the authority’s development management champion, told the meeting he had concerns over the damage it would cause to the park.

He said: “This is possibly one of the most iconic sites in the park and you can see all the peaks and Ribblehead viaduct.”

Members placed conditions to only allow eight 10mph wagon movements before 9.30am and after 3pm on weekdays, over two 40-week periods spread over a decade.

Upper Dales councillor John Blackie said the decision to permit the trucks to travel along Cam High Road to Far Gearstones Farm, near Ribblehead, rather than pass through Gayle and Hawes had been a great relief to residents.

He said: “Residents of the villages would have had to have endured some 20,000, 44-tonne timber truck movements along the most unsuitable roads over many years.”

Colin Speakman, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales Society, said: “This will trash part of the national park and could lead to catastrophic damage to a caving system, it is a real disaster.

“We want a public inquiry to examine this scheme.”

No one at the Cam Forest Trust was available for comment.