Read more about our Roanhead campaign here

Read guidance on how to make a response to the proposal here

Joint Press Release 23rd February 2024

By National Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Lake District, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust

A coalition of nature and landscape charities have joined forces to object to a serious threat to the internationally significant nature reserve at Sandscale Haws and the wider Morecambe Bay and Duddon estuary.

A revised planning application for the Roanhead Farm redevelopment, which lies directly adjacent to the nature sites has recently been submitted by developer ILM Group for a holiday park with 233 cabins and associated leisure and retail facilities.

There are a range of concerns with the most critical related to the impact of the footfall and trampling of thousands of additional visitors disturbing the fragile ecosystems.  The nature reserve and estuary provides a refuge to some of the rarest and most protected species in the UK. 

The Sandscale Haws nature reserve is a much-loved local jewel for the residents of Barrow and Askam. Dan Taylor, the General Manager for the National Trust who look after the reserve on behalf of the nation said  “We want to ensure that local people can continue to enjoy this special place, balancing our conservation work to safeguard a very sensitive ecosystem whilst providing a warm welcome.  We are concerned that the scale of this development would risk irreparable harm to the fragile wildlife habitat and that the mitigation proposals included in the application to deal with the sheer volume of additional visitors are inappropriate, insufficient and impossible to enforce.”

A critical part of the planning application requires the developer to demonstrate the impact its visitors would have on the adjoining nature reserve and estuary and how these will be mitigated. Despite a clear request, the Habitat Regulation Assessment chapter of the revised application still includes no survey work outside of the development boundary which remains a significant omission. 
Other serious concerns include inadequate access along a very narrow country lane (Hawthwaite Lane), the noise, light and water pollution created by thousands of visitors, the visual impact on the landscape and the impact on the character of the area.  We believe the visitor numbers set out in the application will have an overwhelming impact on the fragile nature reserve and there will be more day visitors using the facilities at the resort centre which is the same size as it was in the last proposal, to compensate for the lower number of lodges.

Stephen Trotter, Chief Executive, Cumbria Wildlife Trust said:  “Though there are differences in the new application, Cumbria Wildlife Trust is very concerned about the proposed resort as it will still damage wildlife and habitat in the area. It's immediately next to highly sensitive sand dune habitats, with rare and threatened wildlife including the biggest population of natterjack toads in Britain, otters, large numbers of threatened wading birds, unusual plants and the rare spring mining bee.  The extra disturbance and pressure may put at risk much of this special wildlife and some may disappear altogether.

“We strongly support the need for economic regeneration in Barrow-in-Furness and we welcome new jobs and opportunities in the area, but it's vital that development doesn’t damage the internationally important natural assets on which society is based.  We strongly support the growth and development of sustainable tourism but in our view, this is simply the wrong location for this scale of holiday resort. It’s just too close to such an important and irreplaceable wildlife site.”   

Friends of the Lake District CEO Michael Hill said  “The pressure of thousands of additional visitors to Sandscale Haws will harm not only the sensitive habitats but the unique landscape character of this area, and in turn the sense of tranquillity and escape that local people currently enjoy and benefit from.  We’re standing with the local community and other concerned organisations to make clear that this is the wrong development, in the wrong place and must be stopped” 

The RSPB, the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, has also raised its concerns about the development. 

Robin Horner, RSPB Area Manager & Chair of the Morecambe Bay Local Nature Partnership, said,  “The Duddon Estuary is internationally important for its wildlife and nature urgently needs more protection, not less. Natterjack toads, for example, are Britain’s rarest amphibian and the coastal areas that would be impacted by this development are home to a quarter of them.  We have grave concerns that this development would have a detrimental effect on some of the UK’s rarest plants and birds, such as the endangered curlew, and will work with partners to oppose it.”

Dr Tony Gent, Chief Executive Officer, Amphibian Reptile Conservation said  “The natterjack toad is a charismatic and much-loved species of amphibian, but one that is declining even in its Cumbrian stronghold and that is increasingly being threatened through changing land use, climate change and sea level rise.  This area is of national significance for this species, and also home to strictly protected great crested newts.  The development is too big and too close to the sensitive habitats that these species depend on, and will add a huge additional visitor pressure; these proposals represent an unacceptable risk to nature”.


•    Sandscale Haws is one of the National Trust’s most important coastal sites. It is a special place for both people and for wildlife, providing a refuge to some of the rarest and most protected species in the UK.  This sensitive ecosystem is a real jewel in the Cumbrian coast and is much loved by the local community.

•    Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve is home to over 600 flowering plant species and 500 species of fungus, lichen and bryophyte, the nationally scarce Dune Helleborine, vulnerable Coralroot Orchid, rare water beetles, an internationally important to a range of wintering, migratory and breeding bird, as well as 25% of the UK population of natterjack toads which are umbilically connected to the wider population of natterjacks across the estuary.  All of these species are very sensitive to disturbance by trampling, light, and noise.  There has been a significant decline in numbers of Natterjack toads throughout the 20th century and now there are only 13 areas in the country where they remain, the Duddon estuary being one of them. 

•    The site is adjacent to Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary Special Protection Area, the largest continuous area of mud and sandflats in the UK.  The wide range of biodiverse habitats of the SPA hosts over 260,000 rare, threatened or vulnerable breeding, migratory and wintering bird species, and supports the third largest number of wintering wildfowl in Britain.  It is used regularly by 8% of the non-breeding UK population of Bar-tailed Godwit, 6.8% of the non-breeding UK population of Eurasian Oystercatcher and 6% of the breeding UK population of Sandwich Tern.  These most important breeding and feeding grounds and species of the SPA are at risk from threats including recreational disturbance, air and water pollution.  

•    The National Trust is Europe’s largest conservation charity and we believe in the importance of nature, beauty and history in people’s lives.  We care for over 20 per cent of the Lake District National Park, including England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike; its deepest lake, Wastwater; its precious wildlife; 90 tenanted farms, and the cultural heritage within some of its most historic buildings.  We support 300 jobs in Cumbria and the Lake District, and each year we work with local volunteers whose invaluable support helps us to look after one of England’s most inspirational landscapes.  The Trust is dependent on the support of its members and the visitors we welcome to these special places each year: every penny we raise in Cumbria is invested in caring for this special place, for ever, for everyone. 

•    Friends of the Lake District is an independent charity and the only membership organisation dedicated to protecting and enhancing Cumbria's landscapes. It believes that the Lake District offers some of the most spectacular and precious landscapes in England. It takes action to protect and enhance the natural beauty of these landscapes for the benefit of visitors, local communities, wildlife and habitats. Friends of the Lake District represents CPRE – The Countryside Charity in Cumbria. 

•    The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, protecting habitats, saving species, and helping to end the nature and climate emergency. For over a century we’ve acted for nature through practical conservation and powerful partnerships, campaigning and influence, and inspiring and empowering millions of people, including almost 1.2 million members. Our network of over 200 nature reserves sits at the heart of our world-leading science and conservation delivery. Nature is in crisis, but together we can save it.  For more information about the RSPB please visit

•    Cumbria Wildlife Trust cares passionately about wildlife and wild places – we’re here to put wildlife back into our land and seascapes to make Cumbria a wilder county with more space for nature. We restore and connect wild places, work with nature to tackle the climate emergency and support people to take local action for wildlife. With a dedicated team of skilled and professional staff working closely with volunteers, partners and thousands of supporters, together we’re creating a wilder future for Cumbria. We are part of a UK-wide grassroots movement made up of 46 individual Wildlife Trusts who all believe that we need nature and nature needs us. 

•    Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is a national wildlife charity committed to conserving amphibians and reptiles, and saving the disappearing habitats on which they depend. Our vision will see amphibians and reptiles thriving in their natural habitats, and a society inspired and committed to their survival: