The Lake District has become a World Heritage Site joining iconic locations such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and Grand Canyon as a place of international acclaim.
Today’s announcement in Krakow has led to jubilation among 25 organisations in the Lake District National Park Partnership who had put the bid together for UNESCO recognition in the cultural landscape category.
Chairman of the Partnership, Lord Clark of Windermere, described the prestigious status as momentous and will bring great benefits for locals, visitors, tourism, businesses and farming. It now joins just over 1,000 World Heritage Sites worldwide.
Three key themes underpinned the bid for World Heritage Site status, recognising the Lake District National Park as a cultural landscape of international significance. These include world ranking examples of identity – the dramatic farmed landscape; inspiration – art, literature and love of the place. This in turn sparked the birth of conservation – people fought and invested to look after this special corner of England.
Lord Clark explained: “It is this exceptional blend which makes our Lake District so spectacularly unique and we are delighted UNESCO has agreed. A great many people have come together to make this happen and we believe the decision will have long and lasting benefits for the spectacular Lake District landscape, the 18million visitors we welcome every year and for the people who call the National Park their home.”
Lake District National Park Chief Executive, Richard Leafe, said there was great excitement over the achievement.
Richard said: “The Lake District is an evolving landscape that has changed over time and will continue to do so. Improving landscape biodiversity and looking after our cultural heritage underpin the Partnership’s management plan which sets out how, together, we will look after the National Park as a World Heritage Site for everyone to enjoy.”
The bid was submitted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Historic England as the UK’s only submission in 2016. Following the 41st UNESCO committee meeting held in Krakow, John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said:
“The Lake District is one of the UK’s most stunning and ancient landscapes and I am thrilled it has been granted World Heritage Site status. It is a unique part of the world, that combines a vibrant farming community with thousands of archaeological sites and structures that give us an amazing glimpse into our past.”
He added: “This decision will undoubtedly elevate the position of the Lake District internationally, boosting tourism and benefitting local communities and businesses.”
Douglas Chalmers, Chief Executive of Friends of the Lake District, said: “Our cultural heritage has evolved over many generations and we want to see this continue with no harm to the landscape in the future. So, although we welcome this Inscription, we have some concerns that the resultant increase in publicity and awareness of the Lake District may lead to more unsustainable tourism – and not just an increase in international flights. Of more direct significance to Cumbria, we could see an increase in car journeys and a greater threat of inappropriate developments.
“We should take this opportunity to develop and adopt more sustainable tourism practices and transport solutions that reduce the risk of harm to our landscape while contributing to economic benefits. We would like to see the status used as a focus to grow the value of sustainable tourism by giving people more reasons to visit whilst ensuring the landscapes they come to enjoy are managed appropriately.
“This gives everyone involved in protecting and enhancing the Lake District National Park a fresh opportunity to ensure that the Park is managed in a sustainable way to guarantee the unique qualities of the Lake District are there for future generations to discover. Achieving World Heritage Site status provides a further level of accountability for us all.
“We can enjoy the moment, but winning World Heritage Status marks the beginning of a new adventure and the Partnership still has much to do in ensuring the threats and opportunities are balanced appropriately.”
Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and as a borough we cannot wait to make the most of it. In other places, where it has been fully maximised, the status has meant new development, increased funding, conservation benefits and even some regeneration.
“We need to harness the benefits and ensure that as much tourism as possible is driven towards Copeland.
“This will help us spread the message far and wide: this is a place of exceptional beauty and cultural value, making it the perfect place to holiday, live, work and invest.”
Tim Farron MP said: “This is fantastic news for our area, and for the local tourist economy. This well-deserved status is a formal recognition of the outstanding natural beauty of the Lake District, and will help to further promote our area as the UK’s leading rural tourist destination and attract visitors.
“However, it is vital that the Lake District remains a viable place for local people to live. This decision is about protecting and promoting the natural and cultural heritage of our area, and must not be used as an excuse to freeze in aspic our vibrant rural communities. The Lake District must be a place where local people can afford to live, raise a family and find work so that rural communities can thrive.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in this successful bid for their hard work.”
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) says World Heritage Site status will help to bring much needed investment and boost the local economy.
SLDC endorsed the Lake District’s bid for World Heritage Site status in 2015 saying it would benefit the long term economic prospects for the whole of South Lakeland.
Cllr Graham Vincent, SLDC’s Portfolio holder for Economy, said: “We are delighted the Lake District has been named as a World Heritage Site. This not only recognises its significant importance as a cultural landscape but also offers exciting opportunities to add real economic drive, attract and develop new creative industries and help to meet the demand for more affordable housing which complements the area.
“SLDC will continue to work closely with the Lake District National Park Authority to develop the benefits of World Heritage Site status, providing a positive and vibrant future for the area and strengthening our economy.”
SLDC is a member of the Lake District National Park Partnership, which comprises 26 local and national organisations, agencies and authorities which were behind the successful bid.
Cllr Matt Severn, SLDC’s Portfolio holder for Culture, Media and Sport, said: “This is really welcome. It recognises the unique cultural and social heritage of the Lake District and will provide an important springboard for future investment in tourism and the economy of South Lakeland. It is a recognition of the unique character of the people as well as the landscape of this special area.”
NFU Cumbria County Chairman David Raine said: “Agriculture has an important ongoing role in maintaining the basic fabric of the landscape which symbolises the beauty of this special part of the world. Unesco has accredited this accolade to the Lake District in recognition of the fact it’s a thriving and changing farmed environment that inspires.
“It is important World Heritage Site status allows the area to flourish and not fossilise, and recognises the role farmers play in developing the cultural landscape. The logo used throughout the bid process has been that of a Herdwick sheep, a breed of Nordic influence that dates back thousands of years. This is how long farming has been making a positive contribution to the Lake District and I’m heartened that Unesco has seen fit to recognise that.”
Locals and visitors across the Lake District are being invited to celebrate the UK’s latest World Heritage Site this weekend by coming together for a Picnic in the Park! Marking the first weekend as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (15 and 16 July) lovers of the Lake District are encouraged to take a trip to their favourite picnic spot, café, garden, fell or iconic lakeside view in the National Park and share their photos using #WeAreTheLakes, which will appear on the World Heritage website. For ideas on where to go this weekend, visit: lakesworldheritage.co.uk