Lake District

Lakes 2 Dales Campaign

Success! On 23 October 2015, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss gave the go ahead to extensions to the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks.

We’ve been campaigning alongside other organisations for these extensions for several years so are absolutely delighted at this announcement. You can read more about our reaction here.

The extension areas

The Lakes 2 Dales campaign aimed to secure extensions to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks providing enhanced protection to some of the most beautiful and important landscapes in England.

The areas considered for inclusion into the Yorkshire Dales National Park are:

Middleton, Barbon, Casterton and Leck Fells, part of the     Firbank Fell, part of the Lune Valley and fells to the west   (east and north of Kirkby Lonsdale)

Firbank Fell (west of Sedbergh)

Northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang (south of Kirby Stephen)

Part of the Orton Fells (north east of Tebay)

These were all accepted with only two minor exceptions – an amendment to the boundary south of Reagill and the omission of a small area of land at Lowgill Farm.

The areas under consideration for inclusion into the Lake District National Park are:

Birkbeck Fells Common, Bretherdale, Borrowdale, Whinfell, Grayrigg and Dillicare Commons and adjacent land (area   between the A6 and M6)

Hesington Barrows to Sizergh Fell and part of the Lyth Valley (areas between Brigsteer and Levens villages south east of   Kendal). These were both accepted in their entirety.

The campaign for National Park status

It has been over 60 years since the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks were created in the north of England. Created to protect the natural beauty of the area and to give us all the opportunity to experience some of the most fantastic landscapes Britain has to offer.

However, when these National Parks were created, decisions about where the boundaries should be were based on administrative ease and man-made features, which are now, no longer relevant.

These arbitrary boundary decisions had the effect of creating some unfinished business for National Parks.

There have been several attempts over the years to protect the areas to the east of the Lake District National Park, and to the north and west of the Yorkshire Dales National Parks, but all previous attempts had failed.

Frustrated with the lack of progress, in 2001 the Friends of the Lake District undertook independent research to assess the areas excluded from the two National Parks, for suitability for inclusion. Armed with the evidence needed, the Friends of the Lake District took their case to the government. The Lakes 2 Dales campaign, led by the Friends of the Lake District, grew and was supported by a range of partners who formed the Key Supporters Group. Members of the Key Supporters Group included the Campaign for National Parks, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the John Muir Trust.

Pressure mounted and in 2009 Natural England began consulting on whether or not to extend the boundaries of the two National Parks. The third and final consultation to amend the boundaries to the two National Parks was held in 2012, where 93% of those responding to the consultation stated that they were in favour of extending both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks, as proposed.

But not everyone was happy, with five local authorities voicing objections on a number of fronts. This meant that a Public Inquiry was needed. The Public Inquiry was held in early June 2013 to consider all of the substantive issues raised through the consultation and to hear arguments in support of designating the areas in question as National Parks. Natural England’s QC provided an excellent final Closing Submission outlining the case in detail.

The Public Inquiry made final recommendations to the former Environment Secretary, Mr Owen Patterson MP in Autumn 2013 but the final decision to approve the extensions was not made until October 2015.

The importance of National Park protection

These areas of the country are already naturally beautiful and can be enjoyed by the public for outdoor recreation, but National Park status is important because it helps to:

– Conserve and protect significant natural and cultural heritage e.g. the Orton Fells are a distinctive block of limestone upland which is dominated by a core of high limestone scares and pavements.  The associated limestone grasslands, spring and flushes are of particular biological importance and support rare plant and invertebrate communities.  Further,    large expanses of open moorland which stretch from Crosby Ravensworth in the west to Ash Fell in the east are important  as they constitute some of the only remaining areas of lowland heathland in Cumbria.

– Generate vital income for local rural businesses, including accommodation, eating and drinking, tourism and farming e.g. if farmers want to draw funds for Environmental Stewardship Schemes, more points are available if the scheme is in a National Park.  They can also revitalise communities and provide opportunities for new businesses for the new visitors they attract.  It is worth noting that some communities in the area have declined e.g. Borrowdale and Bretherdale have suffered depopulation and abandonment of property over the years.

– Create places of quite enjoyment, reflection and spirituality e.g. the wild character of the fells bestows a sense of freedom and discovery, with extensive and impressive open views. The fells provide opportunities for quiet and the release of the pressures of urban living.

– Stimulates and keeps safe our rich cultural heritage and traditions e.g. Ruskin wrote of the area when looking north east    towards the Barbon and Middleton Fells “the valley of the Lune at Kirkby is one of the loveliest scenes in England – therefore, in the world… I do not know in all my own country, still less in France and Italy, a place more naturally divine, or  a more priceless possession of true ‘Holy Land’.”  Another example can be found in Firbank Fell, which is an important    area for the Quaker movement, as it was the site of George Fox’s sermon.

– National Parks make an essential contribution to our national natural assets and help us to meet environmental targets e.g. peat and woodland provide carbon sequestration helping the UK to meet carbon reduction targets, moorland peat also  helps to clean our water as it runs from the highlands to catchment areas, they also provide habits for our insects, plants  and animals to thrive.

– As the “green belt” comes under increasing pressure for further development it is more important than ever for us to protect our most important and beautiful landscapes for the environmental benefits they bring, but also the benefits for  sustainable economies, improved mental and physical health, education, fun and recreation.