Conservation charity Friends of the Lake District (FLD) has asked government agency Natural England to consider extending the southern boundary of the Lake District National Park. The proposal would bring in an extra 155km2, expanding the park area by around 6%.
The extension covers the outstanding landscape in the south of Cumbria, incorporating the area between Silecroft and Grange-over-Sands, the Millom Without, Furness and Cartmel peninsulas and the estuaries of the Duddon, Leven and Kent rivers, all three of which are intimately connected with the Lake District.
Some of this area was recommended for inclusion in the Lake District National Park in the Report of the National Parks Committee in 1947, and for many the exclusion of Cartmel and the Duddon Estuary still represent unfinished business.
The recent expansion to the Lake District's eastern boundary in 2016 and the award of World Heritage Status to the National Park in 2017 provided further impetus to parish councillors to act on behalf of their communities and identify a partner organisation to assess this landscape with the intention of applying to Natural England for designation.
Douglas Chalmers, FLD Chief Executive, said:
"To establish a strong and evidence-based case for a boundary change with Natural England we had to provide robust independent research establishing that the landscape and recreational opportunities from Silecroft to the Kent Estuary satisfied their criteria for National Park designation.
"Our research outcomes have vindicated the views of the communities and parish councils in this area. These communities know they live and work in a landscape of spectacular quality. Our independent assessment provides the evidence confirming that this landscape is of the quality affording, and deserving of, national park status."
In parallel with FLD's research, local parish councils have been establishing the level of support for an extension amongst residents, businesses and communities.
The Southern Boundary Partnership (SBP) was formed to learn more about what being in a National Park would mean for residents and businesses and to help build enthusiasm for this change. The group, together with Friends of the Lake District, is also engaged in informal discussions with local politicians of all parties, local government and a number of non-statutory bodies.
David Savage, SBP Chair, said,
"National Park designation will help to ensure that our spectacular landscape is properly valued and managed appropriately, but it will also deliver a means to positively influence the health of our communities and create an environment that enhances visitor spending and attract new businesses which can help our communities to thrive, but also enhance residents' quality of life."
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. As was the case with the 2016 extension to the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, the process could be a very protracted one.