Friends of the Lake District has submitted a formal request to extend the southern boundary of the Lake District National Park to Natural England (NE) for its consideration; Natural England is the government agency with the statutory powers to create a National Park or vary its boundary.
The extension being proposed would incorporate an area of outstanding landscape in the south of Cumbria, its land and its estuaries, increasing the size of the Lake District by 155 km2 increasing its overall area by approximately 6%.
It incorporates 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, all three of which rise in and traverse the Lake District.
Parish Councils and communities have long been aware of the quality of the landscape of this area and its close relationship and resemblance to the landscape character, geology, geomorphology, cultural history and wildlife of the adjacent National Park.
Although it is 70 years since the National Park and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 was enacted by Parliament, many communities have retained a pervading sense of unfinished business; the exclusion of the Cartmel Peninsula and Duddon Estuary from the original designations that created the Lake District National Park in 1951.
The Cartmel Peninsula was an area recommended for inclusion in the Lake District National Park in the Report of the National Parks Committee in 1947, (the Hobhouse Report) considered at the time as being of the quality affording National Park status.
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.
This partner was landscape charity Friends of the Lake District, an organisation that was instrumental in the extension to the eastern fringes of the National Park in 2016, and with unique expertise in the protection and enhancement of Lake District and Cumbrian landscapes.
It established and funded a research team to assess whether the quality of the landscape as it is now would warrant national park status and statutory designation under Section 5 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
Background research was undertaken by Friends’ Policy Officer Dr Jan Darrall and Frank Lee, an external consultant who was involved in similar work which helped establish the Lakes to Dales parks’ extensions in 2016. Alison Farmer, of Alison Farmer Associates (a landscape architect with specialist expertise in landscape evaluation for designation) undertook research work to independently assess the area from Silecroft to the Kent Estuary; looking at the landscape character, wildlife and cultural heritage, together with the opportunities for recreation and enjoyment of the land to the south of the Lake District National Park.
Douglas Chalmers, Chief Executive, Friends of the Lake District 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 the research commissioned by Friends of the Lake District, 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 also engaged in informal discussions with local politicians of all parties, local government and a number of non-statutory bodies including the N.F.U., CLA and Cumbria Tourism.
David Savage, Chair of the Southern Boundary Partnership 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.”
Following its research findings, and with the support of the Southern Boundary Partnership (SBP), Friends of the Lake District has authored and submitted a proposal to Natural England stating that a strong and urgent case can be made for a further boundary extension to the Lake District National Park.
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 it may be that scrutiny of the evidence will not begin until the outcomes of the Glover Review are revealed in the autumn. 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.
The Southern Boundary Partnership has organised a number of ‘Community Conversation’ events to run throughout the summer months, allowing local residents and businesses to discuss the proposal for a southern boundary extension and to view the mapping submitted to Natural England. The ‘Community Conversation’ events are being held to engage residents across South Cumbria and Cartmel Peninsula:
- 26th June Thwaites Village Hall, The Green, Millom 5.30pm – 7.30pm
- 1st July Victoria Hall, Grange 6.00pm – 7.30pm
- 3rd July Lowick Community Hall, Lowick 5.30pm – 7.30pm
- 8th July Victory Hall, Broughton in Furness 6.30pm – 8.30pm
- 9th July Supper Room, Coronation Hall, Ulverston 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Additional dates may be added and times may be subject to change so please check the latest schedule of ‘Community Conversation’ events available via Friends of the Lake District’s website where you will also find more information about the proposed extension area.