Lakeland in Bid for World Heritage Status

The Lake District has been confirmed as the UK's only new nomination for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It has been put forward by the Government in the 'cultural landscapes' category. But is this a good thing?

Three sheep, 120 kb
Three sheep
© dpb, Dec 2008

Supporters of the bid, which include many organisations including the National Trust, Cumbria County Council, the Lake District National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission, have been campaigning hard together under the auspices of the Lake District World Heritage Project. They reckon the UNESCO status would boost local tourism, and that just 1% more visitors would bring in an extra 20million to the local economy.

But of course it's about symbolism as well as money.

Henry Owen-John, Head of International Advice for Historic England, said:

'We are delighted that the proposal for World Heritage site status will now be considered by UNESCO. The historic landscape of fells and valleys, enhanced by stone walled farms, fields and upland grazing is as beautiful and inspirational today as it was to Wordsworth. It is in our view of outstanding universal value to all humanity.'

The bid highlights how the Lake District inspired the Romantic poets, and its role in the birth of a global conservation movement, including the early formation of the National Trust. Backers of the bid also want it to bring about an increased recognition of the economic and cultural role that farming plays in the Lake District.

Not all conservationists are likely to welcome this, with many believing that upland farming practise as promoted in the bid is nothing to celebrate, leading to a denuded and dysfunctional ecology and hydrology. Would World Heritage Site status enshrine the precedence of sheep over trees?

If the nomination is approved the Lake District will join 29 other World Heritage sites in the UK, which include Hadrian's Wall and St Kilda.

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