Friends of the Lake District is concerned that core funding for the nation’s protected landscapes has fallen considerably in real terms over the last decade; by 40% for National Parks and 60% for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This has had a major impact on the frontline services that the Lake District National Park Authority, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the 3 AONBs in Cumbria are able to offer and ultimately on the health, wealth and wellbeing of visitors, business and communities. 

In Cumbria we are incredibly lucky to be served by the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the three AONBs of the Solway Coast, North Pennines and Arnside and Silverdale. These landscapes are a national asset that belong to us all. The Lake District is the biggest contributor to the economy of Cumbria, supporting our regional economy and creating thousands of private sector jobs, in turn spurring wider economic growth. 

Rather than investing in this vital resource, our protected landscapes have been starved of funds and are now facing the prospect of further cuts over the next three years, in the midst of what is already being described as a climate and nature emergency with our environmental and planning laws also coming under threat. 

The Government is currently considering: 

  • Plans to amend or scrap crucial environmental laws which protect the UK's most vulnerable wildlife and green places which include the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Cumbria's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). This also threatens our clean water, clean air, clean beaches and rivers.  
  • Scrapping a vital scheme in England that would have supported our farmers and landowners to enhance nature, create space for rare species and habitats, and use their land to absorb carbon and work towards net zero. 

The Government has also announced that it is now planning to ‘re-focus’ proposed investment zones, ‘to catalyse a limited number of the highest potential knowledge-intensive growth clusters’ with ‘high environmental standards’. We await further details to ensure these do not negatively impact on our protected landscapes. 

We only need look back at the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic to remind ourselves about the importance of access to high-quality natural environments like the Lake District for the nation’s health and wellbeing. 

Cutting investment only serves to undermine health benefits and those savings associated with outdoor recreation, valued at over £6 billion in the UK. AONBs and National Parks are a critical component of our Natural Health Service, enabling people of all backgrounds to reap the physical and mental health benefits. 

Furthermore, if the Government is to meet its international commitments on biodiversity and its goal of net zero by 2050, it must invest in our protected landscapes for the health and wealth of the nation.