The Lake District is a special and unique place to live in 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 all sectors of the 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 but longer term there is a need to grow a more diverse and resilient economy. To support vibrant communities, action is needed to 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: @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, in the Vibrant communities and properous economy supporting paper, highlights many of the Lake District’s communities face a number of challenges including:
Challenge 1: An economy particularly vulnerable to external change, such as covid-19, but also other factors such as economic, legislation and policy changes as a result of being primarily based on tourism and land based industries.
Challenge 2: Acute pressure for local and affordable housing resulting from a high number of second and holiday homes, a lack of homes in permanent occupation and high property prices.
Challenge 3: A threat to the viability of local services, such as primary schools, as a result of decreasing resident populations.
Challenge 4: A changing age structure of the resident population resulting from the lack of suitable, affordable housing for younger people.
Challenge 5: An environmental capacity which cannot accommodate a level of housing growth that would be necessary to meet the demand for local occupancy, especially affordable housing.
Challenge 6: A lack of a range of high productivity employment opportunities as much of the economy is reliant on the visitor economy, and a shortage of resident workforce.
Challenge 7: Inadequate digital infrastructure including broadband and mobile phone coverage in some more rural areas of the Lake District.
Challenge 8: A potential reduction in migrant labour and economic impacts on the farming sector as a result of Brexit.
Challenge 9: The impacts of climate change on residents and businesses.
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, in the Vibrant communities and properous economy supporting paper, clearly outlines the strong interlinkages between community and the economy, particularly in the context of how the following aspects interact:
There are a lot of ‘day-to-day’ activities and services provided by many organisations and businesses to support vibrant communities and a prosperous economy. Our focus in this Plan is on where the Partnership can collectively add value, over and above the ‘day-to-day’ activities of the Partners, which are often captured through their statutory functions, for example the Strategic Coordination Recovery Group’s Cumbria Recovery Strategy.
As a Partnership we have developed proposed Asks, Tasks and Local Actions and proposed research through discussions with partners and stakeholders, the Business Task Force and the Plan Steering Group. There may be opportunities for businesses, communities and organisations to collaborate in different ways to address these challenges, and we would be interested to hear your ideas.
The activities are based on the principle of continuous improvement. Some of these may last the length of this Plan and beyond, while others will be delivered sooner. They are likely to change throughout the Plan period as we need to be agile and respond to changing situations and changing knowledge. We would like to hear your views on what you can you do to help deliver the actions and address this key challenge?
More information can be found in the research framework
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 the four other key challenges: