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 in the Sustainable travel evidence base paper and further research looking into the current situation in the Sustainable travel and transport supporting paper, 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:
“We don’t think all car use is wrong, or that it can be ended. But we do think people should be given a choice and we also think that unlimited car use can spoil the natural beauty of the special places people come to see in the first place. It is not much fun being on the shores of somewhere such as Windermere on a bike or on foot when the A592 is nose to tail,”
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.
We would like to hear your views on our suggested approach. The English Lake District already offers many world class travel experiences, including iconic lake cruises, open top bus journeys and some of the country’s best walking and cycling opportunities but we want to address the identified challenges where we can. Partners and stakeholders have already delivered many infrastructure improvements, such as multi-user trails (e.g. Keswick to Threlkeld), improved walking trails and signage, and online information on how busy places are.
Whilst a lot of the reduction in carbon emissions from transport that we all hope for depends on government policy and its implementation we will continue to work together to identify further measures to improve how people get to and around the English Lake District sustainably, decarbonise travel, and improve getting around by developing new experiences that will form part of the economic, and health and wellbeing recovery from Covid-19.
Our actions are based on the principle of continuous improvement and designed to address what we are seeking to achieve. Some of these actions may last the length of this Plan or longer, while others will be delivered sooner. Our actions will change throughout the Plan period as we need to be agile and respond to changing situations and changing knowledge. We will be ambitious and aim to deliver more where opportunities arise.
This consultation closed at midday Wednesday 23 June 2021, thank you to everyone who gave their views.
The Partnership are now analysing the responses and will update the Plan for adoption later in the year.
This challenge does not operate in isolation, you may also be interested in the four other key challenges: