Should the Lake District be extended further south?
- Credit: Archant
Parts of Lancashire North of the Sands are about to become embroiled in a tug-of-war. Mike Glover reports
The Lake District National Park could be set to grow if an application by the Friends of the Lake District is successful. They want to extend the southern boundary of the National Park to include an area between Millom and the Kent esturary, increasing the size of the Lake District by 155 km2 and its overall area by approximately 6%.
The extension - which will be considered by Natural England - would cover the area between Silecroft and Grange-over-Sands, Furness and Cartmel peninsulas and the majestic estuaries of the Duddon, Leven and Kent rivers. Excluded are urban areas, like Millom, Barrow and Ulverston, although the famous Hoad monument is included.
Although the initiative was announced by FLD, the idea was kicked off by the Southern Boundary Partnership, a group of parish councils. The chairman is David Savage, who is also chairman of the Millom Without parish.
He came to prominence during the campaign to prevent the National Grid erecting giant pylons across much of the area covered by this bid. That fight has been shelved due to the collapse of a plan for a new nuclear power station at Moorside, near Whitehaven.
Mr Savage denies that preventing pylons is the main motivation for wanting to extend the boundaries of the National Park. Although there is no doubt stricter planning laws would apply if the application were to be successful.
'We wanted to explore the opportunity of designating what is an area of outstanding quality as part of the National Park,' Mr Savage told Lancashire Life. 'That places like the Duddon Estuary and Cartmel were not designated when the National Park was set up 70 years ago is just an accident of history. This is unfinished business. We need to look at the landscape again and see if it meets the standards necessary to be part of the National Park.'
He also thinks there are economic benefits, now the Park has World Heritage Site status.
'We want to explore these benefits, in farming, tourism, housing, planning and transport. But it is not a done deal. We have just started the process of consultation,' he added.
Public meetings have been held throughout the affected area during July.
The last extension of the National Park in 2016 to the east, into what has become known as the Westmorland Dales, took 12 years from proposal to enactment.
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The reaction to the proposal has been mixed, with most local politicians saying they want to wait for consultation on the detail.
Tim Farron, whose Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency covers about half of the proposed extension, said: 'These plans would see the biggest increase in population of the Lake District since the national park was founded back in 1951.
'Being in the national park brings some benefits but it means giving away democratic control of planning, housing and environmental matters to an unelected body. It would also very likely see an increase in house prices that could make life even harder for local families already struggling to get on the housing ladder. So it would be wrong to go any further with this proposal without proper consultation of people in the Cartmel Peninsula.'
Douglas Chalmers, the chief executive of 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 among residents, businesses and communities.
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, whoever that will be. It is unlikely that scrutiny of the evidence will even begin until the outcomes of the Glover Review into the purpose and future of national parks are revealed in the autumn.