Unsurprisingly, the Lake District is Britain’s most visited National Park.  Visitor growth over the past few years has been significant, rising from 14.8 million visitors in 2012 to around 20 million in 2018.  At the moment, 83% of visitors travel to the Lake District by car and over half of them use their cars as their main mode of transport within the Park[1]

The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) is predicting 5% year on year visitor growth[2].  At this rate of increase visitors to the Lake District could number around 46 million by 2035. 

This is a big challenge.  At weekends, in school holidays and during fine weather the roads in the Lake District are full of visitors’ cars.  The sparse network of main roads means that motorists are often stuck in a slow moving convoy of cars driving into and through the Lake District.  On the narrow, winding and often single track minor roads, a busy day can see accidents,  damage to verges and stone walls, inconsiderate parking in passing places and cars having to reverse down narrow lanes or becoming stuck. There is often an unbroken queue of traffic all the way through the popular settlements of Ambleside, Windermere, Bowness and Keswick causing intrusive noise and air pollution. Ugly car parks disfigure the landscape. 

The domination of the car as the main means of transport in the Lakes is to the detriment of visitors’ experiences, the ability of residents and businesses to go about their lives, pedestrians, cyclists, the landscape and air quality. It also contributes to climate change. 

The LDNPA have produced a Travel Strategy “Smarter Travel: A vision for sustainable visitor travel in the Lake District National Park, 2018-2040”. Disappointingly the measures and targets proposed in this strategy do not take into account the LDNPA’s own predicted 5% increase year on year in visitor numbers. 

We must find potential solutions to the car jam as a matter of urgency. In November 2019, we held a sustainable transport conference with the aim of generating evidence-based radical new ideas – to look at alternatives to the private car, to explore road charging, to consider vehicle free valleys and investigate other innovative approaches. You can read a summary of the day here.

We want to develop the most promising initiatives tabled at the conference further – to take them from theory, through feasibility testing to pilot to roll out. 

[1] The LDNPA’s Travel Strategy  “Smarter Travel: A vision for sustainable visitor travel in the Lake District National Park, 2018-2040https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/caringfor/smarter-travel

[2] Lake District National Park Authority Draft Local Plan 2020-2035