Full details and mapping of the proposed extension area are available here: www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/southern-boundary-extension

Following a request from a group of parish councils, landscape charity Friends of the Lake District spent a year carrying out research to inform a proposal to extend the southern boundary of the Lake District National Park; submitting a formal request to Natural England (NE) in June of this year.

In conjunction with this, the Southern Boundary Partnership (SBP) - a community led group of Parish Councillors’ - organised a series of drop in events called ‘Community Conversations’. They provided residents across South Cumbria and Cartmel Peninsula with the opportunity to discover more about the proposal and to have their questions answered. 

Nearly 300 residents attended events at Thwaites, Grange over Sands, Lowick, Broughton and Ulverston where Friends of the Lake District and the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) were also in attendance to provide information on the proposal for a southern boundary extension.  

Mapping illustrating the proposed route of the new southern boundary dominated much of the conversation and prompted many of the questions at the community events. 

The proposed extension incorporates an area of outstanding landscape in the south of Cumbria, including the area between Silecroft and Grange-over-Sands, the Millom Without, Furness and Cartmel peninsulas and the majestic estuaries of the Duddon, Leven and Kent rivers. 

Grange from Silverdale

The route of the new boundary detailed in the proposal has been generated by research undertaken by Friends of the Lake District to assess ‘landscape quality’.  This is aligned with the criteria employed by Natural England to inform – following extensive consultation - its ultimate decision on whether a landscape is of the quality and character to afford national park status. 

The proposed extension area shares much of the geology, geomorphology, cultural history and wildlife of the adjacent Lake District; many of the facets that will go into determining ‘landscape quality’ and Natural England’s ultimate decision. 

Douglas Chalmers, Chief Executive, Friends of the Lake District, 

“Our research and submission has been based on the landscape quality.  Although we believe that these amazing landscapes should be incorporated into the park, I have to stress that a large part of our research is independent and all of it is to the highest standard.” 

David Savage, Southern Boundary Partnership (SBP), 

“We have been pleased that so many people came along to our ‘Community Conversations’, where residents took the opportunity to express their views both in support of the proposal and the impacts that designation may bring to our communities. 

“Any proposal of this scale, altering boundaries and impacting on so many people needs the support of our residents and our businesses and their confidence that we are pursuing this proposal on their behalf. 

“Our ‘Community Conversation’ events have been just that; conversations. We’ve had discussion on the proposed boundary, on planning, tourism, transport, farming and housing policy. It is vital that we are there to listen and represent people at every stage of a process that is likely to be measured in years and not months“. 

Natural England has now responded to the proposal in a letter to Friends of the Lake District. It has indicated that it is currently aware of 18 requests for AONB or National Park designations or variations. A bigger factor in the speed of its decision making will be the imminent publication of the Glover Review findings on the future of designated landscapes. This is likely to shape Natural England’s future designation work, its decision making, future priorities and ultimately its designation priorities.  

An open letter from Julian Glover to Michael Gove - Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - has summarised the review’s interim findings, indicating that we can expect far reaching changes which would indeed impact on Natural England’s future priorities and the timescale for a decision on the southern extension of the Lake District. 

Our designated landscapes could receive more recognition and support for their role in delivering natural beauty, climate change solutions, flood resilience and health and wellbeing benefits. The publication of the Glover Review findings may delay any immediate prospect of national park designation but could herald additional benefits for future designation candidates. 

The final decision for any extension to the southern boundary of the Lake District will rest with Natural England and the Secretary of State for the Environment but scrutiny of any submission or research will not begin until what look likely to be far reaching changes in the Glover Review have been adopted by Natural England.

Even then, as was the case with the 2016 extension to the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, the process could be a protracted one. A substantial consultation would be required and would involve the county council, the district councils, the National Park Authority and parish councils, who have land within the area to be designated. As good practice, Natural England would also, throughout the consultation process, seek engagement with key stakeholders and the general public.

You can view further details and mapping of the proposed extension area here: www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/southern-boundary-extension