Landscape charity Friends of the Lake District has expressed serious concern over elements of the Lake District National Park Authority’s Local Plan Review document, published last month and currently open for public consultation.

The Local Plan will set out guidance for planning decisions within the Lake District National Park over the next 15 years. It is a set of policies used to guide decisions about development by the planning authority, the Lake District National Park Authority.

Friends of the Lake District believes that the review leans too heavily towards increasing attractions and visitor numbers and too little on how the infrastructure of the park is going to cope with the associated effects of increased numbers of visitors. There appears to be little concern about the effects of the plan on those who live and work in the national park. The charity is also concerned that potentially damaging development and activities are given priority over the environment and landscape of the Lake District.

Douglas Chalmers, Chief Executive at Friends of the Lake District, said: “Because this plan will define many important decisions within the Lake District National Park for a long time, up to 15 years, it is important to get it right. Setting off in the wrong direction could lead to a great deal of damage to the Lake District over this period. It may be a local plan, but it is for a National Park and so is of national importance.

“We know that visitor numbers to the park continue to increase meaning that we already have a competitive visitor ‘offer’ but is our popularity already having a negative effect?  A recent Cumbria Tourism survey revealed that 30 – 40% of visitors to Cumbria have problems getting here and then struggle to park when they arrive. 62% of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce members have concerns about transport and congestion.

“Too much emphasis on tourism-based businesses may damage the many other interests within the National Park. Friends of the Lake District want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy the area, but why put this enjoyment at risk from overdevelopment and loss of peace and quiet?

“The Lake District had 19 million visitors last year, and when it became a World Heritage Site in 2017, UNESCO actually raised concerns over the impacts of tourism, yet this plan is encouraging more tourist development.

“We want to encourage visitors to enjoy the unique benefits of the Lake District, but until we have adopted successful methods of moving people around by sustainable methods, the congestion we experience on our roads at peak times should not be made worse. 

“These problems impact on the lives and livelihoods of local people, businesses and visitor enjoyment; being stuck in traffic, or finding nowhere to park is  not a great start to what should be the wonderful holiday experience we all want visitors to enjoy.”

 “We welcome the continuation of policies preventing the building of second homes, but the tone of the Local Plan emphasizes themes of ‘Visitor Experience’ and ‘Prosperous Economy’ while neglecting the other, equally important objectives of ‘Spectacular Landscape’, ‘Wildlife and Cultural Heritage’ and ‘Vibrant Communities’.

“We fully understand the pressures faced by the National Park Authority, but believe that if Government was to increase the funding of National Parks then the park could be managed in a more sustainable and appropriate way. The outcomes of recent proposed developments such as the Thirlmere zipwires serve to reinforce our desire, and that of the public, to see the environment and landscape of the Lake District given priority over damaging development and activities. The public should make their views known, via this consultation and also their MPs.”

The Park Authority is urging everyone to get involved during its consultation phase to comment on its Local Plan review. It’s called a local plan, but national parks are national assets so anyone can comment, whether you live in the Lake District or not.”

The Local Plan Review consultation runs until 29th June 2018 with drop-in events scheduled across the region throughout the month for people to find out more. 

Read more about it and how to respond here

To respond, see the National Park Authority’s website here.