The Lake District is on course for the same global recognition as some of the world's most iconic sites after being recommended as the UK's nomination for 2016 World Heritage inscription.
In an announcement made today (9 January), the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said it is inviting the Lake District to prepare a case for the coveted UNESCO World Heritage badge.
The news has been welcomed by the Lake District National Park Partnership, which has been campaigning to have the universally acclaimed region listed for its spectacular cultural landscape.
England's largest national park is now on track to join the Great Wall of China, Egypt's pyramids and the Taj Mahal and other prestigious North West sites such as the Liverpool waterfront and Hadrian's Wall, as an internationally recognised location.
Chair of the Lake District World Heritage Bid, Lord Clark of Windermere, said: "It would provide the globally recognised branding the Lake District and Cumbria and our tourism industries are seeking - it would tell the story of what makes this place so special to the outside world, and to the people of Cumbria. It will give the opportunity to promote this unique status, increase civic pride and attract more cultural tourism, boosting our economy."
The long-running bid for UNESCO recognition dates back to the 1980s and Lord Clark explained after previous setbacks, the government's latest endorsement was testimony to 'enormous hard work and commitment of partners from all sectors'.
Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park, Richard Leafe, said it was an exciting and positive breakthrough for the Lake District and Cumbria.
He explained: "World Heritage inscription will boost the international profile of the Lake District's unique awe-inspiring landscape, which has evolved over thousands of years.
"We believe it is possible to strike the balance between conserving our historical cultural roots at the same time as encouraging regeneration to meet the needs of a thriving, modern region. World Heritage designation can help us meet this tough challenge – attracting valuable international cultural tourism will also be a catalyst for increased investment in heritage, culture and farming to help us make the most of our greatest asset, the spectacular cultural landscape."
The campaign for WHS designation has been endorsed by local businesses. Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises said: "This is fantastic news for the region. Our world renowned landscape already attracts more than 15 million visitors a year. World Heritage status would provide us with a global seal of approval, which will give us a major advantage in attracting high-spending, cultural tourists, particularly from Asia. In basic terms this would mean more jobs and prosperity for Cumbria."
Once the nomination has been submitted, it will undergo a demanding 18 month process of scrutiny and evaluation by UNESCO and its advisory body, the International Council on Monuments and Sites. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee is expected to take the final decision on the Lake District in July 2017.