Candidates standing in the constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale faced questions from a packed audience at a Hustings for Cumbria’s Landscapes, organised by the charity Friends of the Lake District.

At the event, which took place on Monday 24 June at the Ambleside Parish Centre, candidates debated issues such as sewage in Windermere, climate change, nature-friendly farming, public transport, housing and hill farming culture. There was also a question which related to Friends of the Lake District’s recent decision to seek a Judicial Review of the planning approval for a major new tourist attraction in the Langdales.

Westmorland and Lonsdale candidates from all the parties who had MPs sitting in the last parliament were invited along to the event. On the night, Tim Farron (Liberal Democrats), Phil Clayton (Green Party) and Pippa Smith (Labour) took questions from the audience. Matty Jackson (Conservative) and James Townley (Reform) were unable to attend but sent statements which were distributed to those in attendance.

The event was chaired by the BBC's Caz Graham, best known for presenting on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme.

With Ambleside at the heart of issues arising from sewage discharge into Windermere, Matt Staniek, Director of the campaign group Save Windermere, asked one of the first questions of the night: “What will you do to stop sewage entering Windermere?"

There was consensus among the three candidates for stronger, and more rigorously applied, regulations on water companies and better infrastructure.

Friends of the Lake District’s objection to a new adventure attraction at Elterwater Quarry also came up on the night. One questioner expressed concern that “there has been a trend towards overdevelopment [in the Lake District] by commercial interests and there should be a return to the original aims of the Lake District National Park.” He asked if the candidates would oppose the recently approved zip wire facility at Elterwater.

Both Tim Farron and Phil Clayton said they strongly opposed the new attraction. Phil Clayton said it was “baffling” that the Lake District National Park had passed the project and said he “absolutely supported” Friends of the Lake District’s legal challenge against the decision. Tim Farron labelled the plans for the attraction at the quarry: “daft”.

Labour’s Pippa Smith called for a “balance to be struck” between commercial interests, tourism and the needs of nature, the environment and local communities in the park. She said she would want to work with organisations like Friends of the Lake District, the Lake District National Park Authority and Zip World to “understand the situation” around the Elterwater development.

Chief Executive of Friends of the Lake District, Michael Hill, said: “As a landscape charity created 90 years ago to protect and enhance the Lake District, we have no political affiliations, but we strongly believe that landscape matters. It was heartening to hear the candidates on stage tonight in broad agreement about the challenges facing Cumbrian landscapes. We hope that politicians in the next parliament step up and do something about these issues, which is why we’ve launched our own Manifesto for Cumbria’s Landscapes. This calls on the newly elected government to commit to delivering on six demands covering areas such as water, local housing, nature friendly farming and the impact of tourism.” 

The Friends of the Lake District manifesto can be found here: www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/manifesto2024

A full video recording of the hustings is now available here: