Now that the Lake District is a World Heritage Site, what happens next?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 July 2017
After being granted World Heritage status, work begins to build a successful future for the Lake District, writes Paul Mackenzie
The Lake District’s inclusion on the Unesco list of World Heritage sites has been greeted with joy across the region. After more than 20 years of trying, the national park was added to the list last month, putting it alongside the likes of the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China as one of the world’s most special places.
For those of us who know the area well, it’s easy to see why the Unesco committee reached the decision. It’s a place of superlatives – England’s largest natural lake, the country’s highest mountain, and the most beautiful scenery. It has inspired some of the best loved writers, artists and poets and it now attracts about 18m visitors a year who spend a total of £1.2bn and sustain in the region of 18,000 jobs.
It is the 31st place in the UK and overseas territories to be put on the Unesco World Heritage List and as they announced their decision, the delegates praised the area’s beauty, farming and the inspiration it had provided to artists and writers. But they also wanted the impact of tourism be monitored, improvements in conservation efforts and called for more affordable housing.
And those concerns have been echoed by Douglas Chalmers, chief executive of the Friends of the Lake District group. He told Lancashire Life: ‘We want to see cultural heritage continue to evolve with no landscape harm in the future, and have some concerns that the resultant increase in publicity and awareness of the Lake District may lead to more unsustainable tourism – whether an increase in international flights or, and more directly affecting the area, an increase in car journeys and the threat of inappropriate developments.
‘We see an opportunity to develop and adopt more sustainable tourism practices and transport solutions that reduce the risk of harm to our landscape yet contribute to an economic benefit.
‘We would like to see the status used as a focus to grow the value of sustainable tourism by giving people more reasons to make day visits and sustained visits while ensuring the landscapes they come to enjoy are managed appropriately.’
And he added: ‘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 Word Heritage Site status provides a further level of accountability for us all.
‘Winning this status marks the beginning of a new adventure and there is still much to do to ensure the threats and opportunities are balanced appropriately.’
Steve Ratcliffe, director of sustainable development at the Lake District National Park, said the application had been a ‘long time in the making’ and he was ‘incredibly proud’ of the landscape which has been shaped by nature, farming and industry.
He told the committee: ‘The Lake District now becomes an international and global property and we look forward to working with you and our communities to make sure this site inspires future generations around the world.’
The UK now has 31 world heritage sites including Stonehenge, Durham Castle and Cathedral, and the city of Bath, the Tower of London, Canterbury Cathedral and the Giant’s Causeway.
Lord Clark of Windermere, who chaired the Lake District’s bid, said the decision recognised the region’s contribution to culture, art and literature, as well as its landscape.
He said: ‘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 18m visitors we welcome every year and for the people who call the national park their home.’
Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, added: ‘World Heritage Status is another opportunity to build the reputation of the Lake District internationally.
‘We think it will be a great way to help encourage international visitors to venture outside London and highlight the Lake District, as the favoured destination to prospective visitors from a wide variety of countries around the globe.’
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