The Lake District is a special and unique place to live and visit. Having such a high quality environment literally on your doorstep is valued by residents, and also makes it a very popular tourist destination which underpins the economy of the Lake District. People have been living and working in the Lake District for centuries; they are proud to belong to the Lake District and have a strong local identity. The Lake District plays an important role in the Cumbrian economy, and provides Cumbrian residents many health and wellbeing opportunities.
COVID-19 has had an extreme impact across many sectors of the local economy, and we recognise it could lead to further business closures, more unemployment and greater job insecurity which in turn could lead to increased ‘localised’ deprivation, adding to the pressures on people living and working in the Lake District. The immediate priority is one of recovery from Covid-19 and in particular the tourism and hospitality sector, but longer term there is a need to grow a more diverse and resilient economy. To support vibrant communities, action is needed to connect labour supply with businesses with acute labour shortages and encourage the return of customers to businesses. During the first lockdown in 2020 our residents experienced a quieter Lake District, with significantly reduced traffic, better air quality and an improved environment for nature with obvious tangible benefits for mental health and well-being. This was followed by an extremely busy summer and pressures associated with an influx of visitors creating tensions between residents and visitors, particularly those residents who are not reliant on jobs within the Lake District.
The Landscapes Review notes:
“Any attempt to create a division between what visitors need and what locals want will always be arbitrary: lots of people who live in national landscapes love their natural beauty, and lots of people who visit want to be in places which are real communities. It is a shared interest. After all, the most popular social media account linked to any national landscape is not about nature or tourism but the one run by a sheep farmer and writer, James Rebanks (Twitter handle:@herdyshepherd1).”
Final report on Landscapes Review by Julian Glover
We know there will always be tensions between different pressures in the Lake District and ensuring vibrant communities and a prosperous economy is no different. How do you sustain a national landscape without real communities living and working in the landscape? We know that house prices and jobs are critical issues to living in the Lake District, and this impacts on the balance of population and permanent residents in our communities.
Behind the ‘rural ideal’ our evidence highlights many of the Lake District’s communities face a number of challenges including:
For rural communities to remain strong and vibrant, we need to address the declining population and to ensure there are more permanent residents to provide a balanced population in terms of age. The evidence clearly outlines the strong interlinkages between community and the economy, particularly in the context of how the following aspects interact:
Globally and nationally the response to addressing climate change has not been adequate. Global warming reached 1°C in 2017, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses that it is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. This means if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to be released on the current trajectory resulting in more global warming, the scale of change expected through to 2080 in the Lake District is going to be significant. Climate change is therefore a universal pressure on and threat to the Lake District, its environment, economy and communities.
In recent years the Lake District has experienced a number of storm and flooding events creating significant damage. Storm Desmond caused catastrophic damage on the 5th December 2015 and we are still recovering five years on. The new ‘Pooley Bridge’ has only just been built and the Keswick to Threlkeld multi-user trail opened on the fifth anniversary of the storm. But it is not just storm and flood events, as warmer drier summers are likely to bring their own issues such as more frequent droughts, wildfires, and inhospitable climates to habitats and species. We have updated the Climate Change Adaptation Risk Assessment for the Lake District this shows that climate change will impact the special qualities and outstanding universal value of the Lake District, and our experiences of living, working and visiting the area.
We have prepared a Climate Change Risk Adaptation Report which predicts, using the latest Met Office Data (UCKP18), what climate change means for the Lake District in a worst case scenario. Based on this evidence if we do nothing, the future looks stark.
The UK Government passed laws in 2019 to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. This means the UK will be required to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. In December 2020, the UK Government also set a new plan which aims for at least 68% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, compared to 1990 levels. In April 2021, the UK Government substantially increased its commitment by setting a new target of 78% carbon emission reduction by 2035. This Plan sits well within the context of this new target.
As a Partnership, we must therefore act now through this Plan to contribute to delivering major and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We have a good starting point to lead the way in supporting Government to achieve this ambitious target, with over 10 years’ experience reporting against a carbon budget and reducing carbon emissions through the Low Carbon Lake District project.
The Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership have prepared a Cumbria Baseline Report proposing how to reduce greenhouse gases in Cumbria by breaking down carbon savings required sector by sector. From this a Lake District baseline has been created which is reported in the Climate Action and Net Zero supporting paper which suggests an ambitious trajectory to reach net zero by 2037. The value of this report sets out the scale of the challenge and the gap we need to work on with partners. We want to support the global goal of limiting climate change to within 1.5oC of warming – to prevent the worst of its impacts. Achieving net zero by 2037 in Cumbria, together with Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership, will be our contribution to this.
The Glover Review discusses how National Parks should be leading climate action to address the impacts of climate change and recommends that National Park Management Plans should set out clear priorities for responding to climate change. It quotes the Committee on Climate Change saying
“significant changes to land use are needed now and over the next 80 years to move the sector towards achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions, while protecting natural capital that the land currently represents and which will otherwise degrade as the climate changes.”
The evidence demonstrates the challenges for the Lake District resulting from climate change:
The impact of restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has created a large scale economic impact on society bringing much hardship to businesses and people. However, the annual emissions (nationally) are expected to be down by 6-8%, in 2020, close to the target of 7.6% that is required every year between 2020 and 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5oC. It is important that the recovery packages from covid-19 ensures and supports the decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions to achieve future reductions to net zero. In doing so, we want to create the conditions to support sustainable growth of the Lake District economy and communities. We also want to unlock funding and opportunities to make the changes that are needed to grow world class visitor experiences; and at the same time balance this with the Vision for the National Park.
To mobilise climate action, the Partnership agreed that we need to identify clear and deliverable actions to reduce emissions. Our approach is to do all we can to adapt to climate change and to reduce emissions as our contribution to the global effort to prevent a worst case scenario and avoid its longer term impacts.
We have identified a fifth of the savings needed over the next 5 years to put us on a 2037 net-zero trajectory through actions integrated into the Future of Farming, Nature and Climate Change, Sustainable travel and transport and Vibrant Communities and a Prosperous economy sections in the Plan. Whilst the remaining gap between our current carbon emissions and net zero does look overwhelming, the Partnership is at the forefront of understanding our carbon budget in the Lake District and have identified the carbon savings of deliverable projects which help address that gap. Whilst ambitious and challenging, we believe the carbon savings identified are deliverable and play to the strengths, knowledge and influence of the Partnership. It is clear that reducing this figure to zero is a major challenge, and that the bulk of the reduction must come from the vigorous implementation of appropriate policies at the national level. Nevertheless, we are committed to urgently developing further actions that we as a Partnership could take over the lifetime of the Plan to help close the gap further, including investment and work at a county level with partners through the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership to support Cumbria to achieve net-zero by 2037.
The proposal for Cumbria to aspire to be net zero by 2037 is included in the Cumbria Recovery Strategy. This Strategy is led by the Strategic Coordination Recovery Group (made of the county’s decision making bodies). Delivery will be through the work of the Zero Carbon Cumbria programme.
From evidence gathered, we know that to reduce the required amount of carbon to remain on a trajectory towards net zero, between now and 2025, we need to reduce carbon emissions by 860,000 tCO2:
By identifying the scale of the national and global challenge and working together across the County with the Zero Cumbria Carbon Partnership, we believe there are significant opportunities to close this gap and have committed to developing further local actions over the lifetime of the Plan Closing the large gap that remains will also depend in large part on policies at the national level which are beyond the control of the Partnership.
The Lake District National Park faces the biggest change in half a century with the implementation of the Agriculture Act 2020 and the delivery of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. Both offer challenge and opportunity to embrace change, and ensuring the effective delivery of both are integral to achieving our ambitions for vibrant communities, prosperous economy, spectacular landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage, and a world class visitor experience in the Lake District. Our priority is to achieve a recovery that will celebrate, sustain and enhance the Lake District National Park’s Vision and Special Qualities, and World Heritage attributes of Outstanding Universal Value. Our farming traditions, our natural environment and our climate are in crisis and our recovery from this shared crisis drive the priorities and objectives for the Partnership.
The landscape character of the Lake District National Park and World Heritage Site has developed through a long history of agro-pastoralism and local industry interacting with the natural and physical environment of the area. Our future land management choices are critical to delivering the public goods and benefits set out in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. The Government’s Agricultural transition plan
The decisions partners, land owners, farmers and foresters make about how land is managed will make the greatest impact on achieving the Partnership’s shared ambitions for farming, nature and climate recovery. There is a strong, unifying connection between farming, forestry, nature and climate. Farming led nature recovery is at the heart of how the Lake District National Park Partnership’s collaborative working will support farmers and other land managers through the agricultural transition period to adapt their businesses for economic, environmental, social and cultural benefit. Farmer led nature recovery can work alongside and in combination with other existing and new nature recovery approaches that are active in the Lake District today. Some of these place restoration of natural processes as a primary driver for nature recovery. This range of approaches can be complementary in tackling the challenges of the nature and climate crises. The principles set out in the Lawton Review (2010) are to improve, expand, buffer, and connect core nature sites which we can do through both farmer led and nature led approaches.
Further information about the challenges and supporting evidence can be found in the Future of Farming and Forestry, Climate Change and Nature Recovery Supporting Paper. Our findings from the 2018 Lake District State of the Park Report, and Climate Change Adaptation Report provide further evidence for the development of this Plan.
Our ambition is to have a high percentage of the Lake District land in ambitious and successful schemes within the Agricultural Transition Plan, including Environmental Land Management (ELM) and Farming in Protected Landscapes. These schemes will deliver measurable and positive environmental benefits. The Cumbria Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) is critical to us having a better shared understanding of the condition of nature, and will establish the ambition for nature recovery in Cumbria, and the Lake District and provides an important evidence base that we can all use to highlight opportunities where farming led nature recovery can make the most difference. The State of the Park Report 2018 clearly sets out the breadth and scope of the challenge we face. We are developing the Lake District National Park Nature Recovery Delivery Prospectus to support delivery of the Cumbria LNRS ambition. The prospectus will establish the local ambition, evidence, and delivery plan for nature recovery in the Lake District.
The Partnership recognises that actions to aid the sustainability of farming and the recovery of nature and climate will require delivery by both the farming community and a range of other partnership delivery across farming, common and forestry land in the Lake District, providing a significant opportunity to collaboratively deliver the objectives of the Plan.
Throughout the development of the Plan we have engaged through a range of mechanisms with farmers and farming groups, particularly through our Defra Environmental Land Management (ELM) tests and trials, with existing local initiatives, and through the development of a Heritage Horizons National Heritage Lottery Fund bid. In early 2021 a group of partners engaged with over 100 farmers in the LDNP through online meetings and surveys. This engagement has helped to shape the Plan.
There are many good examples of agri-environment schemes, landscape restoration, and catchment initiatives, which have positively contributed towards looking after this fantastic landscape and its natural and cultural assets. However, the State of the Park Report 2018 is clear that these examples have not been enough to halt and reverse the loss of wildlife throughout the landscape. These positive examples need to become more widespread if we are to protect and restore precious habitats, biodiversity and soil quality, and to adapt to climate change across the Park. We need to secure and build on the gains and learning achieved through successful examples to help us tackle the nature, farming, and climate crises and in so doing, establish a sustainable future for the unique cultural and natural heritage of the Lake District.
The Plan sets out a strategy for the next five years for how we can take an integrated approach building on current best practice and making the most of new opportunities, for these priorities. We will achieve this through new approaches to farming led nature recovery combined with a range of other innovative and sustainable land management practices, projects and partners.
Key to protecting and enhancing the Lake District National Park’s Special Qualities and World Heritage attributes of Outstanding Universal Value is to ensure that:
There are a number of other established partnerships that are essential to the further development and delivery of the ambitions set out in this Plan. This Plan does not try to duplicate their work, and the actions in this Plan are focussed on where we can add most value by working collaboratively.
Through early engagement we recognise and understand the role of local leaders for farming led nature recovery and climate adaptation. We have learned from Ullswater Community Interest Company how natural flood management projects, designed and created by a network of local famers, land owners, partners and community members, have empowered people through local decision making. They share knowledge and learning to support each other in their projects, such as river restoration and habitat creation, with land management practices that help restore nature that also improves soil and plant health. Within the Plan we refer to this type of community initiative as area planning. We would like feedback on this approach as a key delivery mechanism for the Plan, as part of the consultation.
Approaching 10% of the area of the Lake District National Park currently encompasses a range of areas and sites being managed to deliver nature recovery and other public goods. These are led by a range of partners in the Lake District National Park Partnership and other land managers. These places act as core areas for nature recovery and provide employment, training, and recreation. Nature recovery and public goods delivery are predominantly driven by sustainable farming practices. These areas have built up a good evidence base to support decision making and monitoring that helps to inform options for delivering nature recovery and public goods. Examples include Wild Ennerdale, Wild Haweswater, Eycott Hill, Foulshaw Moss, Lowther Estate, and Restoring Hardknott Forest. These areas are represented in the Nature Recovery Delivery Plan as opportunities to retain, improve and expand core areas of nature recovery in the National Park. These areas and sites can complement farmer and community led initiatives such as the Ullswater Catchment Management Community Interest Company.
In addition to habitat restoration, a number of well-considered species recovery and reintroduction projects are underway across the park through initiatives such as the Back On Our Map (BOOM) Project. An enclosed scientific release of Eurasian Beaver in the National Park is trialling the reintroduction of this ecosystem engineer species and fits with the Government commitment to providing opportunities to reintroduce formerly native species, such as beavers, where the benefits for the environment, people and the economy are clear.
The Lake District National Park Partnership will work collaboratively to build a framework to enable farm businesses to proactively adapt to the challenges in this Plan. Our aim collectively and individually is to deliver improved outcomes and resilience for our cultural landscapes, the natural environment, businesses and communities.
We need to identify funding sources and resource for many of the actions within the Plan. Those may be found within the collaborative partnership resources, but we also need to find additional and new sources of funding to achieve our ambitions.
National Parks contain the most beautiful, spectacular and dramatic areas of countryside in England. The Government’s Landscapes Review ‘Landscapes for Everyone’ theme highlights;
“We want our nation’s most cherished landscapes to fulfil their original mission for people, providing unrivalled opportunities for enjoyment, spiritual refreshment and in turn supporting the nation’s health and wellbeing.”
Final report on Landscapes Review by Julian Glover
The time is right to act now as the founding mission is just as important today as it was in 1949, with the nation recovering from the global pandemic, Covid-19. Changing demographics, physical and mental health, and technology mean there are new challenges, but recent research has clearly demonstrated the value of spending time in nature and the outdoors to children, individuals, and societal health and well-being. The historic environment, cultural and heritage assets also contribute to and support people’s health and well-being. We need to remove barriers to access and embrace the opportunity of broadening our visitor demographic to everyone to benefit society’s health and well-being. The proactive engagement of new visitor groups also opens up new markets to support a prosperous economy in the Lake District, and support the economic recovery from Covid-19.
The Landscapes Review reports:
“The statistics show certain groups especially disconnected. Most visits are made by the same (better off, less diverse) people repeatedly, and those who miss out are the older, the young – especially adolescents – and those from lower socio-economic groups and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities."
Final report on Landscapes Review by Julian Glover
Whilst our own data suggests our visitors aged over 65 are not disconnected from accessing the Lake District, the other findings are consistent with the Landscapes Review findings. The evidence that demonstrates the challenges and inequity of access to the countryside and nature by particular audiences, and that we can be doing more to address this:
The figure below highlights the location of deprived areas within 40 miles of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The data highlights there are almost 800,000 people within 40 miles of the Lake District, and 253 primary schools classified as being in deprived areas.
Recognising that travelling to the Lake District may be unaffordable or unattainable for some people, success may mean that some people do visit the Lake District but people may also visit other National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in order to secure health and wellbeing benefits, and outdoor experiences resulting from addressing this key challenge.
Covid-19 and the experience of lockdown has, at least in the short term, changed the relationship people have with nature. In the Lake District, the combination of the experience of the lifting of the first lockdown restrictions with the good weather meant we had a large increase in domestic visitors and the demographic of visitors has changed; there was an increase in first time visitors, a slight increase in ethnic minority visitors, an increase in visitors from urban areas and there were more young adult groups visiting. We see this change as an opportunity; our ambition is to secure and grow the changed visitor demographic we experienced in 2020.
Connecting people with nature is not just important for people, it is also important for nature as it is shown that the more people spend time in the environment and value the positive impact it has on their own lives, the more they will want to care for, cherish and protect our environment and wild places. Like many other places nationally, the Lake District, has experienced some new or heightened challenges for visitor management this summer.
We know there are a number of organisations, groups, charities and businesses with lots of experience and doing fantastic work to provide opportunities to spend time in the Lake District for many parts of our society (see examples in the ‘Lake District for everyone’ Key Challenge Paper) however, it is clear from the evidence there is more that needs to be done. We wish to help and support these organisations, groups, and charities continue to do this work and assist wherever we can. We commissioned a piece of research to hear from people who face barriers accessing the Lake District and the countryside to help inform what our actions need to focus on. Their recommendations are to:
If you grew up in the countryside, playing in the woods, riding around the village streets, being dragged up hills by your parents, or splashing in the river on the one hot sunny day a year, visiting a city can seem like a daunting experience, just like visiting the countryside can for some people. The recommendations will help to overcome some of the fears, barriers and challenges by engaging with people where they live to explore and enjoy the outdoors.
As noted in the Landscapes Review “The days when Alfred Wainwright wrote his walking guides to the Lake District setting off from Kendal each morning by bus have long gone.” Before Covid-19, over 85% of visitors arrive to the Lake District by private motor vehicle. We know it’s not just visitors relying on private motor vehicles, as workers who cannot afford to live in the Lake District have to commute and public transport is not widely available at the times and locations required. The challenge for transport therefore extends beyond the Park boundary. We want the Lake District to be a place where everyone, regardless of wealth or ability is able to access the national park sustainably. Where low carbon travel is the obvious and most attractive choice for essential and leisure travel.
Where the community, the economy and the nation’s mental and physical health benefits from active travel in an inspirational landscape.
During the 2020 season, as a result of COVID-19, the proportion of visitors arriving by private vehicle increased further as more people went on staycations, and Government advised people to avoid public transport as ‘lockdown’ restrictions eased. Much of this behaviour will continue into 2021 therefore our Visitor Management Strategy for 2021 seeks to mitigate some of these risks in the short term. As confidence rises and restrictions are eased we must restore confidence in the use of public and shared transport services for our communities, economy and environment.
Our evidence and further research looking into the current provides a greater insight into challenges like car dependency, traffic, and public transport.
The Climate Change Adaptation report sets out the far reaching impacts of expected climate change on the transport network and its consequences for the visitor economy, highlighting the importance of the network having in-built resilience. Our actions are realistic at the current time but we will strive to develop more ambitious actions.
One of the few positive experiences of the Covid-19 lockdown was that larger number of people have enjoyed cycling and walking more, and many people discovered, or rediscovered the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling, walking and horse riding on quiet roads with reduced traffic and better air quality. We now have a unique opportunity to work together to ensure some of these benefits can continue to be experienced through a ‘green recovery’, attracting new visitors to the Lake District to undertake quiet and healthy recreation, helping to support the economy. Improved and available sustainable transport is crucial as it supports delivery against the other key challenges.
In order for the English Lake District economy to thrive, transport for residents and visitors requires further change, to enable it to meet the needs of more people more often. As noted in the Landscapes review:
Final report on Landscapes Review by Julian Glover
The pressures caused by visitors arriving by car can damage the visitor experience. They are a significant contributor to the English Lake District’s carbon budget and, can at times, cause anxiety to our communities. Improvements to sustainable transport alongside the decarbonisation of existing transport would deliver benefits to our communities and build capacity for economic growth.