Protecting The Lake District for the next century

The National Park Authority has in recent time been accused of favouring developers, rather than concentrating upon the protection of a unique national treasure. What is the evidence on this, for and against?

Topics of this blog include:

Part 1. What is the matter?

Unsolved Problems of transport.

Unsolved Problems of leisure, with examples

Unsolved Problems of housing.

Part 2. Capacity: what is there room for?

Transport capacity.

Problems of definition: the shifting baseline, environmental thresholds. Decision resistance.

Choices to be made concerning transport.

Capacity of the A591 between Windermere and Ambleside

Road access within the rural park.

Facilities for Cycling

Green Lanes

Tourism capacity.

Part 3. Managing change: An agenda for future policies.

New policies to be sought

Existing policies to be retained/enhanced

Existing policies to be abandoned

Things to be done better: examples.

Lobbying of Central Government needed


For a long read, best viewed on a monitor or tablet

Protecting the Lake District for the next century.

“Where are the men of vision in authority?” Alfred Wainwright 1962

Part 1. What is the matter?

1.1.1 The institutions for protecting the lake district.

1.1.2 Other would-be influencers.

1.1.3 The limited usefulness of plans

1.1.4The Lake District National Park Local Plan

1.2. Unsolved Problems of transport.

1.2.1 Access to the central lakes.

1.2.2 Access to the heads of the valleys.

1.2.3 Parking in rural areas, on common land and in villages and towns

1.2.4 History of attempts at regulating the use of roadspace.

1.2.5 Buses within central lakes.

1.2.6 Cycling

1.3 Unsolved Problems of leisure.

1.3.1 The growth of tourism

1.3.2 Hotels and lakeshore development

1.3.3 Other tourist accommodation: lodges, pods, glamping, caravans, campervans, and camping.

1.3.4 Houseboats on Grasmere

1.3.5 Zipwire across Thirlmere.

1.3.6 Greater numbers, proliferation of “events”

1.4 Unsolved Problems of housing.

1.4.1 The distorted housing market.

1.4.2 Village changes.

1.4.3 The response of officialdom

1.4.4 Private sector responses.

Part 2. Capacity.

2.1 Transport capacity.

Problems of definition: the shifting baseline, environmental thresholds. Decision resistance.

Choices to be made concerning transport.

2,1,1 Capacity of the A591 between Windermere and Ambleside

2.1.2 Road access within the rural park.

2.1.3 Parking.

2.1,4 Buses within central lakes.

2.1.5 Facilities for Cycling

2.1.6 Green Lanes

2.2 Tourism capacity.

2.2.1 Capacity for additional hotels and other accommodation

2.2.2 Capacity for “events”.

Part 3. Managing change: An agenda for future policies.

Nettles to be grasped! Institutional change?

How best to introduce “difficult” policies?

3.1 New policies to be sought on:

3.1.1Trials of local road closures on quiet roads up valleys,

3.1.2 Expanded parking provision at the major centres.

3.1.3 Selective restrictions on A591 between Windermere and Ambleside

3.2 Existing policies to be retained/enhanced

3.2.1 Cycleways: still to become a network.

3.2.2 Strict regulation of proposals for caravan sites, glamping, pods etc

3.3 Existing policies to be abandoned

*Reluctance to use Traffic Regulation Orders

* The “Adventure Capital” of the UK

*The concept of uniform Rural Service Centres.

3.4 Things to be done better: examples.

*Bus/rail/lake steamer timetable integration.

*Advance information as to car park availability.

*Repair of damaged roadside stone walls.

3.5Lobbying Central Government.

*to legalise a tourist tax

*to further tax second home ownership.

*to restore and increase funding for National Park authorities.

4 Conclusion

Part 1: What is the matter?


The landscape of the Lake District is famous, and there are powerful bodies charged with the protection of this. There is the National Park Authority that has the power to examine and refuse planning applications. It employs qualified town planners. There is the National Trust: a major player dedicated to the conservation of the landscape. The NT is the largest single landowner, followed by Lowther estates and United Utilities. There are the Friends of the Lake District, a pressure group with similar objectives. So, with these powerful backers, is the future of the lake district in safe hands? Could anything possibly go wrong?

The answer to this is unfortunately long and complicated. A lot is going wrong. To start with these three agencies:

1.1.1 LDNPA: the Lake District National Park Authority.

The LDNPA is governed by Chairman and Members, appointed in several ways, some directly appointed by central governed, some appointed from among the elected members of Cumbria County Council, the District Councils and some elected by members of Parish Councils within the National Park. The work of the park authority is carried out by the officers, headed by a chief executive. His/her first problem is that the park has multiple objectives, not just the protection of the landscape. The park must foster a growing and diverse economy, and a balanced and resilient housing market. Unsurprisingly these objectives often conflict. A prospective hotel developer may easily claim that his project will create jobs, and so he should get his planning permission. Nothing is quite that straightforward, for many hotel jobs are not well paid, and until Brexit have often been filled by migrant labour, i.e. not benefitting the local economy at all. There is perhaps a greater basic problem in that many of the most acute problems within the lake district are transport related, and the Park Authority does not have transport planning powers, other than the important exception that it has powers to introduce Traffic Regulation Orders. This power LDNPA has chosen not to use. The Glover report in 2019 recommended that national park authorities should have wider transport planning powers.

Coupled with these basic problems has been the reduction in central government financial support. This has practical consequences for the quality of development control decisions. The national park no longer has a listed buildings advisor. The authority has no specific advisor concerned with the design aspects of provision for the disabled. The authority has no officers specifically working on compliance with planning legislation. If an unauthorised development survives unnoticed for 4 years, it can become legal. If the authority refuses planning permission for a proposal, and the applicant appeals, then the authority may well need to engage a barrister: a costly matter. The authority has to meet government targets for the percentage of applications approved.

The planning officers assessing applications have to base their conclusions on government policies and what is stated in the Local Plan, which is updated every 5 years. At a lower level there may be neighbourhood plans, but these too are subject to overarching national policy and Local Plan constraints. For example, a plan that reflects local majority interests against some new development proposed by a higher authority would not succeed. These are not the only constraints. Local concerns can be overridden by proposals considered to be permitted development. For example, the permissible heights of local telecommunication towers will be determined by the details of nationally determined figures. Some permissive development powers have slightly different levels within National Parks. Outbuildings, e.g. a stable, must be no more than 10sqm in area, and 4m in height. Even so, the freedom given by permissive development powers for householders to extend their houses or to permit ancillary accommodation can create significant problems.

The biggest single constraint upon the value of the park Local Plan is the fact that the LDNPA lacks transport planning powers.

The current version of the LDNPA Local Plan was the subject of government review and an examination in public in 2019, and runs until 2035. As with any forecasting, what conditions in the lake district will be in 2035 is pretty uncertain. Recently tourist numbers in the lake district have been rising at 5% per annum. This would mean visitor numbers would more than double by 2035. At the examination in public, the officers reduced this figure to 2.5% per annum. Problem dealt with? What this illustrates is just how limited are the prospects for making plans that really anticipate how society is evolving.

The National Trust, NT.

Yes, the National Trust clearly has an interest in landscape protection, but like the LDNPA, it too has multiple objectives. If you look at job advertisement for senior managers, the term “business development” will feature strongly. It welcomes and seeks increased footfall in its properties. Not just at stately homes, but also in the substantial number of its cottages, capable of generating much more income from short term letting than from long term locals. The most serious problem for the NT farm tenants, is their financial position. Sheep farmers face the most uncertain future. Farmers can switch to more profitable Texel rather than Herdwick sheep. This is not enough, and the universal injunction is that farmers should diversify. If this means the re-use of redundant farmworker accommodation by holiday visitors, then fine. However, at the agricultural trade fairs, farmers will be enticed by the salesmen of camping pods, or “shepherds’ huts”, offering payback from tourists on their investment within 2 years. Planning officers treat these pod proposals in the same way as static caravans, with a presumption in favour, and even sometimes support from the NT.

The Friends of the Lake District FoLD

No problem here about objectives. Like most pressure groups, its task is to publicise and gain public and political support for its aims. In November 2019 it convened a conference concerned with the transport problems of the lake district, and the failure, to date, to do anything significant to remedy them. Over 100 interested people and organisations took part from across the country (including an academic from China). Most notable among the presentations was one by a planning QC, who explaining that it was legally possible to regulate the volume of traffic on local roads by road pricing, with no new legislation needed. Most notable among absentees was any senior representative from Cumbria County Council, the Highway Authority for the national park.

FoLD monitor actions of LDNPA and have observed a disturbing pattern in their decisions: support for a gondola cable car at Whinlatter; the resurfacing of the former Keswick to Threlkeld railway route in 3 miles of asphalt; the refusal to legislate against motor vehicle use of two green lanes in the Little Langdale area, and previously perceived support for zipwires. These decisions seem to be those of a development agency rather than those of a body charged with landscape conservation aims. The chief executive of LDNPA has gone on record as supporting the ambition for the lake district to be “The adventure capital” of the country. In response FoLD has launched a campaign to save the lake district. Information from

Are they right: does the lake district need saving? Is LDNPA simply recognising what is appropriate for a national park in the 21st century?

To answer this, the first question to consider is what should be attempted by planners, and then to look at particular policies for the lake district (Housing, transport and leisure), and particular cases, and to what extent any problems can be controlled, if at all.

1.1.2 Other would-be influencers.

In addition to these players, there are many bodies that endeavour to have an impact upon what happens, affecting the national park and its users. For some, the purpose of the body is obvious: the purpose of Cumbria Tourism is to promote tourism. The purpose of the Cumbria Local Economic Partnership is to promote the local economy. Some of these bodies have access to finance, and therefore do have an impact. Others may be less well known, but still play a part. Here are a few, emphatically not a complete list:

The Open Spaces Society. Bodies such as water and forestry companies sometimes plan to fence in open access land high in the fells. Landowners sometimes apply to delete land from the register of commons. On issues such as this the OSS would endeavour to make representations.

The Trail Riders Fellowship. Throughout the lake district there are a number of green lanes, tracks without any tarmac surface, that are nevertheless classified as roads open to all traffic. The use of these routes by motorcyclists is a matter of contention. The TRF is an enthusiast group of bikers that campaigns to keep these green lanes open to all traffic, including themselves.

Land Access and Recreation Association. A pressure group of motorists.

The Motorcycle Action Group. Promotes rights for motorcyclists.

Lake District Mountain Bike Association.

Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement. The national group opposed to the use of motor traffic on green lanes. The Lake District Green Lanes Alliance is the local equivalent.

The Wainwright Society. Alfred Wainwright famously produced guides for fellwalkers, and his views epitomised the idea that the lake district was best enjoyed as it was, on foot, and unimproved by progress. In consequence, the group supports the conservation of the lake district, and campaigns against measures that is sees contrary to this.

1.1.3 The limited usefulness of plans

So what can planning achieve? “Planning” has had a chequered history. From the earliest times, civilisations have had ideas about earthly rural utopias and ideal cities. Practical applications of planning came in the nineteenth century cities. Health epidemics would impact rulers as well as the ordinary population, so city-wide schemes for drainage and water supply came to be implemented. The best of these schemes were multi-purpose. Bazalgette’s Thameside drainage scheme also included a riverside promenade and the route for an underground railway. Social reformers later envisaged more ambitious multi-purpose plans: entirely new planned settlements as a cure to social ills of overcrowding and poor housing. The origin of the National Parks (1949) came as a part of the great reforming period after the second world war, that brought in the National Health Service and the new towns programme.

Perhaps predictably, there followed a period of disillusion with utopias. At best, they never quite happened. Let the market show what people really want. If it were possible to conduct surveys to try to produce a consensus of individuals’ personal aspirations as to their preferred living environments, the results could only be aggregated by expressing them in the most general terms, i.e. they would be motherhood statements of no use in decision making. Moreover, any consensus as to what was required would change as progress towards it was made. So, if utopias are not a useful basis for planning, what should “Plan B” be?

It is easier to identify problems than to identify ideal end states. For severe problems, it may be possible to achieve a political consensus. This looks a more promising route to pursue. However, identifying existing problems and anticipating new problems are rather different matters. One of the most outstanding attempts at anticipating planning problems was to be found in the 1963 Buchanan report. This was a document prepared with the task of anticipating the problems caused by rising car ownership in U.K. towns and cities, and indicating the extent of road building needed to accommodate this. Incidentally, there has never been a similar study about the impact of the motor vehicle in national parks. The long term forecasts for the rise in car ownership made in the Buchanan report have been largely borne out. For a forecast, this is an unusual event. The rebuilding implied by the measures suggested has not been carried out. Looking back, it is possible to see how many changes in travel behaviour have taken place that could not have been reasonably anticipated by the authors of the report: changes in shopping, job location, home working, recreation patterns etc. Oddly, some of the most far reaching unexpected events correctly anticipated are to be found in science fiction. Douglas Adam’s book, the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy (1985), makes reference to a future reliance upon computers, Google-like reference books and translation engines. Perhaps it was Donald Rumsfeld who put this uncertainty best:

As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know.

Plan-makers do have a stock response to these difficulties concerning un-anticipated changes. It is to attempt to make plans that embrace flexibility, and to build into plans a process of review. To build in flexibility sounds good, but it creates a problem for planners if what they produce is a legal document which imposes standards to be met by developers. The Lake District National Park Local Plan is such a document. How then does it rate, viewed against these general remarks about what plans can attempt to do?

1.1.4 The Lake District National Park Local Plan

The local plan is possibly mis-named. It covers the whole of the national park. It is not the only body concerned with the future of the national park. LDNPA is one member of the Lake District National Park Partnership, an umbrella organisation with a very diverse membership of 25, including Cumbria Tourism, United Utilities and Cumbria Wildlife Trust. It produces a 5 year management plan. The Partnership meets 4 times a year. With such a broad membership, and few actual powers, its pronouncements are strong in motherhood statements.

The LDNPA Local Plan is drafted by the officers, circulated for observations by interested parties, then submitted to central government. Government inspectors are appointed, and they prepare a list of questions to the park authority, and then hold an examination in public for these questions to be aired. Consultees may also, by invitation, put questions to the planners via the inspectors. The inspectors then report on this and recommend approval or amendments to what is proposed, and the local plan is adopted. This process sounds better than it is. The consultees are not a very representative bunch. Commercial interests: strongly represented, local interests and environmental interests: less so. Business owners, fearful of anything that might limit their activities, can take part with hired planning consultants engaged to make their case, often making detailed objections to small print matters. Joe public, attending with a genuine grievance to air, would leave unheard after getting thoroughly bored with these proceedings. Acting as a parish council representative, I found myself seated between the director of a tourist boat company, and the owner of an outdoor clothing company.

The actual content of the document will have several roles, beginning with a general statement as to the planners’ objectives. These “Vision statements” are little more than motherhood statements, modified to accord with prevailing fashions. The wording of the policies themselves is important in detail, because this is what provides assistance to planning officers in their assessments of planning applications. Equally the precise terms will be pored over by applicants and their consultants, as they assess their chances of success, or prepare arguments to be used at planning appeals. All this must be in the mind of those planners preparing the document. The policies have to be justified, in a way that is balanced. In consequence, the plans will generally provide some raw material for both sides in any disputed case. Evaluation of specific policies requires a discussion in more detail. Prior to that, the vision statement suggests that the document is more successful in identifying problems than in solving them, and is not very far advanced in anticipating problems.

1.2 Unsolved problems of Transport

1.2.1 Access to the central lakes.

1.2.2 Access to the heads of the valleys.

1.2.3 Parking in rural areas

1.2.4 Parking on common land.

1.2.5 Parking in villages and towns

1.2.6 History of attempts at regulating the use of roadspace.

1.2.7 Buses within central lakes.

1.2.8 Cycling

Not everyone believes that there is a transport problem in the lake district. I have heard it argued that transport is less of a problem than in the rest of the country. Equally, surveys of local residents and visiting holidaymakers have reported that traffic and its impacts are the most acute problem affecting their daily life and leisure activities. Such Assertions about traffic (e.g. “The lake district is full”) may reflect more than just transport concerns. Clearly, care must be taken in trying to define the problems, by time, location, and impact. Concerning the location of problems, there are several categories, the clearest being:

1.2.1 Access to the central lakes

From all regions to the south, most notable from Manchester and Liverpool regions, there is an obvious route via the M6, and that is along the A591. This is a single carriageway road that roughly follows Windermere lake from Windermere station north to Ambleside. Any visitor to the lakes heading for Ambleside, Grasmere, Hawkshead or Coniston must come this way. Many tradesmen serving cliental in central lakes live beyond the boundaries of the national park, so this is their commuting route. Any patient from these places needing to go to hospital in Kendal or Lancaster must traverse this route. The average daily flow along this road is about 15000 vehicles per day i.e. just within the capacity of the road, if it were to be uniform from morning to night.

It is not. Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons are particularly difficult. Any resident or visitor wishing to catch a train from Windermere from Ambleside or beyond should set off an hour before the departure. As the road is only single carriageway, any roadworks requiring temporary lights affecting half the road will result in hour long delays. If the police close the road after a serious accident (for up to 7 hours on a recent occasion), the consequences can affect the travels of thousands of people. Northbound travellers heading for Grasmere along this stretch have been known to divert via Ullswater and Keswick: tour the whole length of the lake district out of necessity. The same applies when the road is affected by flooding.

Cycling is increasing in popularity. Even when vehicular traffic is quite light, a single cyclist can slow traffic significantly, and cause risks by the very limited overtaking opportunities. Many cyclists come in groups.

There is in theory a good bus service along this stretch of road, with 3 open top buses an hour shuttling between Bowness and Grasmere, a regular service between Keswick, Kendal and beyond, together with less frequent services to Hawkshead, Coniston and Great Langdale. Obviously, the service in practice is dependent upon the constraints described.

Along the 4 mile stretch between Windermere and Ambleside there are a number of hotels and also the LDNPA visitor centre at Brockholes. Hotels have been permitted to expand. These, and the visitor centre are becoming the focal point for sporting events such as the great north swim. This too adds to the number of occasions when traffic is disrupted. The response of officialdom? At a strategic level LDNPA initiated a proposal to make this area a “Showcase” area where further tourism expansion be encouraged. This featured a cluster of hotel expansion schemes and a new roundabout. This in a world heritage site. At a tactical level, road signs are put up warning travellers to avoid the A591 on certain days, because of an event, which intended to attract visitors by the thousand. The planning authority did have plans for an off-road cycleway to improve conditions for cyclists along this route. When the Lowwood hotel gained planning permissions for major expansion and for a conference centre, the authority made no requirement for a cycleway as part of this. Some years previously, an earlier hotel expansion proposal was accompanied by a pedestrian subway under the road to ease crossing problems for guests to access the marina. This subway scheme has vanished. Instead we see hotel staff bravely entering the road to assist guests vainly waiting for a gap in the traffic.

The expansion of roadside tourism along the A591 continues in 2020. Immediately south of Waterhead the A591 passes a former marina, with a long thin (about 20m) strip of land sandwiched between the road and the lake. Northbound traffic queues here for the Waterhead traffic. The application was to develop a new 47 berth marina here, with 5 holiday units and 2 dwellings. This has been approved, and is discussed in more detail later. The proposed cycle route passed in front. The Parish Council, the National Trust, the Friends of the Lake District commented that what was proposed was overdevelopment.

To summarise: yes, there is a problem in gaining access to the central lakes, not aided by decisions of the planners. It is a seemingly intractable problem. There is no serious prospect of a radical increase in road capacity in this corridor.

Access to central lakes by bus

The 555 bus service along the A591 has remained remarkably consistent for a lengthy time period, but the ridership has changed in character. The service does enable local users to get to and from work and to supermarkets near the Keswick bus station and also Windermere, but the largest customer group comprises many elderly visitors, making use of their free bus passes. The view from upstairs is better than from a car, where the stone walls often preclude direct lake views. In addition, there are many young visitors from abroad. Young Japanese and Chinese visitors may not be fluent in English, but timetable reading is familiar to them. The local rail branch line from Oxenholme to Windermere has the highest proportion of overseas travellers of any line in the UK. Windermere station is on the 555 bus route, and the bus company is assiduous in the provision of bus timetables. There is no attempt to integrate bus and rail times. Even so, the growth in the elderly and overseas market means that the main public transport access has not been subject to the decline prevalent elsewhere. The sole long distance bus serving the central lakes was the National Express bus service from London to Whitehaven. It ceased to run in March 2020, because of insufficient patronage.

The success of the 555 bus is attributable to these factors, for it does link the major destinations, Windermere Ambleside Grasmere and Keswick, and including Windermere station. For some visitors, the destination of the bus may be of lesser importance than simply the journey becoming a highlight of the holiday. At Keswick bus station I watched as a large number of elderly people queued for one of the small buses used on the narrow roads to Buttermere. Clearly there was not room for them all to get on the arriving small bus. When the driver would not allow any more to board, there was immediate but short-lived consternation, for another bus, larger, arrived for a different destination, Seatoller past Derwentwater. The disappointed travellers joined this instead.

There may be further potential for sightseeing becoming the purpose of the journey on a normal bus route. This is illustrated by an event that happened in 2015, when the A591 was broken as a result of severe weather, storm Desmond. This meant that there was no link between the central lakes and the north, to Keswick. There existed an extremely narrow lane along the west side of Thirlmere. A short link to this could be constructed, but it was not suitable for general traffic. As a stop-gap measure, an hourly bus service was operated, while the major works of rebuilding the road were underway. It appears that the main road lacked foundations. The back road alongside Thirlmere was too narrow for buses to pass, so the buses departing from Grasmere and Keswick were timed so that they would meet at a lay bye in the middle of the narrow section. Often they did not meet at exactly the same time, so drivers would allow passengers to get off. Many did, and took photos. Even in these single deck buses, passengers had a view above wall level, and a measure undertaken to meet a specific crisis became well known as an enjoyable excursion.

1.2.2 Access to the heads of the valleys.

The problems on minor roads are different. The fact that most of these roads are of ancient origin means that they are narrow and do not have pavements, but have to serve a multiplicity of users from walkers to campervans, cyclists to farm trailers. A growing use is that made by SUVs. Drivers may use these to divert from the tarmac on to pasture. Some unfenced pasture land has had to be fenced off in consequence, in such places as the upper parts of the Duddon valley. Many drivers will be visitors who enjoy exploring unfamiliar territory, and may have too much trust in satellite navigation. Visitors may have limited experience of reversing on narrow roads, with sharp bends and steep slopes. The road signage may be unhelpful. What does “access only” mean? Surely the mountain walker is just using any road for access to the starting point of his hiking.

Traffic volumes may be low or very low. But it takes no more than 3 vehicles to cause congestion and potential confrontation.

Traffic signs restricting width (often with a “except for access” proviso) are in use occasionally, but not in any systematic way. Over the past decades cars have suffered from the nationwide obesity epidemic and got fatter, but lanes have not. Rarely are any sanctions applied to drivers who ignore vehicle width limits. Whilst high tech devices may be able to record with automatic number plate recognition passing vehicle height, weight or speed; there is no handy device to record vehicle width. Use of unsuitable roads attributable to satellite navigation systems now appears to occur less frequently, presumably as systems are refined. However, the presence of vehicles too large for minor roads is resulting in the carving out of verges, and the knocking down of the stone walls that form part of the essential character of the national park. The areas being considered here are some of the most picturesque tranquil corners of the country. Increasing use by vehicles destroys these qualities. The use of these minor roads still varies according to the season. However, the consequential impacts are long lasting. Drystone walls have no mortar. Their strength relies upon the skills of the farmer in positioning the rocks. Stone walls are being knocked down faster than they can be rebuilt. Their repair is generally the responsibility of the landowner. The chances of him being recompensed for the work of repair are small.

The national park local plan offers nothing practical on all these.

Policy 22 states aspirations: “We want fewer visitors arriving to and moving around the Lake District by private vehicle. We want people to park their vehicle for the day and use sustainable travel opportunities”. It shows plans with areas demarcated as “Valley access management plan” and “traffic managed area”. The areas shown on these maps are subject to these problems, and where public transport has little if any role. What these management plans entail is simply not stated. Who is going to implement them, using what legislation and who is to pay, is glossed over.

An intermediate category of road includes some B roads that are just capable of providing the width for small buses, such as the route over the Honister Pass to Buttermere. Only in such cases, where public transport can run, is the LDNPA option of priority for sustainable transport conceivable.

There is one particular single track road, that crosses Wrynose and Hardknott passes that poses particular problems and is a challenge to a driver’s skills, with gradients steeper than 25%, and a total carriageway width of about 3m. The problem is that to access the western fells of the lake district from the central lakes, it provides the only direct route. The other routes, via Broughton or Keswick are very indirect. Wrynose and Hardknott also provide a more strenuous challenge for cyclists, and this route often features in rallies and competitions such as the Fred Whitton. The pass summit points on this route provide a quick route for walkers to the highest fells. The consequential informal jumble of car parking around the passes provides an unpleasant visual litter. The difficulties of using the route may even mean that traffic levels are self-regulating. Congestion and accidents are frequent. Even so, the route features on the tours offered by minibus operators. The attraction for passengers in terms of scenery and drama, are obvious. The fact that mini buses operate on such a difficult route may have lessons elsewhere.

1.2.3 Parking in rural areas

Parking takes up land. How land is used is clearly within the domain of the national park authority, so to this extent transport policy is a matter for LDNPA. Policy 22 states: We will only support additional vehicle parking provision that helps to reduce the need to travel by private motor vehicle.

Additional public parking at Transport Interchanges, Gateways, or Rural Service Centres will be supported only where evidence demonstrates it is needed and it facilitates the transfer of people to sustainable transport.

However, some of the most acute problems occur in areas where there may be limited scope for transfer to sustainable means of transport, so there is simply no stated policy for honeypot parking sites at the starting points for well known walks e.g, at the foot of Cat Bells, at Seathwaite where people park to walk up Scafell Pike, or the head of Great Langdale, which admittedly does have the benefit of one small bus 5 times a day.

In these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that farmers make use of permitted development rights to open up fields for parking use for up to 28 days. Farmers are being encouraged to diversify. The LDNPA lack compliance staff, so the recording of days used on particular sites will not be top priority. The absence of any policy advice for rural areas provides no help for organisations that provide parking. The park authority own car parks, as do district councils, the National Trust and major landowners such as Lowther Estates, all with their own set of charges, opening hours and regulations. Bearing in mind the forecast growth in visitor number, whether it be 5% or 2.5% per annum, pressure on existing parking facilities seems bound to worsen. It will worsen in terms of the visitor experience, and in terms of the landscape impact.

There is a more insidious aspect of the parking scarcity. The nature of country lanes is that there are always odd corners unfenced, with no obvious owner. Any chance to find a free place to leave a car for a few hours will be exploited, and indeed, the passing places on single track lanes are at risk of obstruction. It may well be that many visitors would prefer to park in small secluded sites rather than in large organised (and paying) areas, that do not give visitors from cities the contrast in experience which is part of the role for holidays. Sadly these informal lay-byes are a magnet not just for cars, but for camper vans and for litter. There are a few areas, such as the Newlands valley, where there is hardly any formal or informal parking.

1.2.4 Parking on common land.

The scarcity of car parking in the countryside has an impact upon common land, and in particular, unfenced common land. Common land may be publicly regarded as common property, but of course common land will have an owner, and local farmers may have legal rights for grazing their flocks. Ever larger informal car parks are developing on unfenced common land, and not just on roadside verges of uncertain ownership. The honeypot “village” of Elterwater restricts parking within the centre, and the National Trust car makes a charge for non members, so throughout the season, the verges on the minor roads approaching are lined with parked cars, forming a significant part of the landscape. The demand for parking is simply displaced to the nearest fairly level unfenced common land. The growing use of 4 wheel drive cars accentuates this. What landowners of common land cannot do is to develop commercial interests on their common land, so they cannot formalise these car parks and make a charge. In any event, this would be against the national park policy.

1.2.5 Parking in villages and towns.

Free kerbside parking is a disappearing luxury. On a small scale, it still just survives in Keswick and Ambleside. With a one hour maximum stay, and controlled by cardboard timing discs, it provides a much appreciated facility. However, there is a much broader problem for visitors. Many traditional B&Bs and small hotels lack on site parking, so major car parks are needed to cope with visitor numbers.

This is a difficult problem, and so authorities tend to delay action. The private sector sees opportunities. This often begins by the landowner of open land adjacent to a tourist centre taking advantage of the 28 day permitted development rule, to open the land for parked cars at a fee. The new parking is seen as beneficial to the nearby settlement, and the parking gains authorisation on an ad hoc, unplanned basis. Meanwhile, local authorities see the expressed demand, and proposals surface from them for two storey parking in places such as Ambleside. It is close on impossible to devise a multi storey car park that is an attractive safe place. This remains an unresolved problem.

1.2.6 History of attempts at regulating the use of roadspace.

Before trying to answer some of the questions posed, it is worth looking at what has been attempted in the past, and what is being tried elsewhere. The history of attempts to manage urban road congestion is quite lengthy. In this country it dates back to the Smeed report of 1964. The history of successful attempts to manage congestion is much less extensive, and remains the exception and not the rule. Singapore has direct road pricing. London has a congestion zone, wherein drivers can choose to pay a known fee for the use of a scarce commodity. Regulation of access to congested town centres by means of pedestrianisation of streets coupled with park and ride bus services is more widespread, but with patchy results.

Success, or acceptance, of road pricing in London seems to have depended upon two factors: the severity of the congestion problem, coupled with the public recognition that car users in central London had been a minority. Any such measure does require a determined and persuasive political initiative. Timid uncharismatic political leaders should not try. It is less likely to work in places where the central area is less prosperous, and can accommodate a good proportion of road traffic for most of the time. The criteria for success of urban park and ride schemes are similar. Successful implementation is most likely in historic towns, for ancient road networks imply the worst levels of congestion, but often provide the attractive environmental surroundings. University towns Such as York and Cambridge exemplify this. When limits on the use of central roadspace were introduced, enforcement was often ensured by the use of rising bollards, programmed to disappear below the road surface on the approach of authorised vehicles such as buses taxis and delivery traffic. In some cases, rising bollards are no longer in use. This is not because all drivers are now familiar with the scheme. Enforcement can be assured with the aid of television monitors. Specifically, the use of automatic number plate recognition is now reliable, even having its own acronym ANPR. The use of this technology could become of great importance. One of the most intractable problems with any regulatory scheme is that it needs to be capable of allowing or prohibiting traffic selectively. The need for an ambulance to respond to a 999 call, or for a farmer to get to his stock, rank higher than the need of a tourist to gaze at the landscape from a particular location at a particular time. Proposals in the past have often foundered because of this difficulty of providing a workable selective scheme.

Proposals to manage traffic in National Parks do not have a successful back history. The hamlet of Watendlath lies in a side valley to Borrowdale, and is served by a delightful but very narrow cul-de-sac lane, that crosses a picturesque stone bridge at Ashness. The lane gives access to views into the main valley, and terminates at a farm and a small tarn. In short, a characteristic lake district beauty. Unfortunately, visitors clogging the lane will need to reverse to an infrequent passing place, possibly already blocked with parked cars. In effect, the lane has a limited capacity, and that limit is frequently exceeded. A few years ago, the National Trust pioneered an excursion trip from Keswick to Watendlath, to enable non-car users to reach into the rural heart of the lakes, and to give drivers an alternative way of getting there. That scheme has now been discontinued. It is possible to understand why. The scheme was not accompanied by a Traffic Regulation Order excluding casual riders. The vans used would get impeded by all the cars. Moreover, a difficult journey by car might still be more convenient than a not very frequent mini bus. With your own car, you can take the kids and grandma, plan a picnic without the need to hump the luggage, and dash back to the car if it turns wetDone more effectively, schemes such as this could succeed. A small side valley just south of the Bernina pass in Switzerland gives access to three small lakes in a delightful alpine setting. An unpaved single track road leads for several miles up to these. There is no access for private cars, except for a handful of residents. At Sfazu, where the minor road leaves the major route, a small bus provides a service, connecting with the service running between the nearest towns. Across the road from the Sfazu bus stop is a car park for customers arriving by car. Passengers book a seat by phone the day before. If there are more than 12 passengers, a second mini bus is provided. At the upper terminus there is a café, where hikers can get a snack as they wait for the timetabled return bus. Publicity? Easy: a google search on “Sfazu” and “timetable” provides what is needed, including the telephone number. As a successful scheme, it uses both a carrot and a stick.

Schemes that just provide an incentive can influence travel behaviour. The availability of free bus passes for the elderly has certainly encouraged bus travel. The bus operator, Stagecoach, makes good use of the fact that the view from the top of a bus is better than that from a car.

1.2.7 Buses within central lakes.

The 555 bus operates directly across the centre of the lake district, linking Kendal with Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick. It provides a service for commuters to get to work, and for shoppers to get to supermarkets near bus stops in Keswick and Windermere. However, the continued success of this bus service has relied upon its use by visitors, including many from overseas. The bus passes Windermere station, at the terminus of a branch line from Oxenholme. This branch line carries the highest proportion of overseas visitors of any line in the country. Visitors from the far east feel confident to use public transport. Stagecoach also make their timetables widely available. However, no attempt is made for the rail and bus times to be coordinated.

Apart from this, the problem is simply the absence of any comprehensive local bus network. Commercial considerations make this impractical. Local and voluntary initiatives exist, but of limited overall impact.

In many countries there are cities or regions that impose a visitor tax added to accommodation prices. In exchange, visitors booking into hotels for two or more nights are presented with a travel pass, offering free journeys on local bus, lake and mountain transport. Clearly this will be something to be considered in the future, for its potential influence upon the scale of future traffic in an area where road widening would be damaging, even if affordable.

1.2.8 Cycling

There are some serious problems for cyclists within the national park, and problems caused by them, and following the national trend, the number of cyclists is increasing. The problems differ for the different types of cyclist. The mountain biker has different needs from those with the narrow tyred lightweight machines. Different too are the problems facing family groups with young children on bikes. Government has encouraged local authorities to introduce cycle lanes on existing roads. Short lengths of highway have been reserved for cyclists, but nothing on a network wide basis has been attempted. It seems the those provided are the result of a box-ticking exercise needed to demonstrate a local authority’s adherence to government edict. Few are useful. The particular local problem is that in summer, hedgerow and bushes encroach into the road, as do fallen branches, obliging the cyclist to move back into the path of vehicles.

The A591 between Ambleside and Grasmere is a busy single carriageway. For cyclists it is an unpleasant and dangerous experience. For motorists, vans, lorries and buses, it can cause a frustrating delay, for it is often difficult to overtake even a single cyclist. It is not surprising that the park authority should seek to find a traffic free alternative route for cyclists. The route adopted has been a partial solution, but with some consequential problems.

Throughout this part of the central lakes there is a network of footpaths and bridleways. Bridleways date from ancient times and can legally be traversed by walkers, horseriders and cyclists. That all bridleways are suitable for cyclists is questionable, but the legal right is unquestionable. Along the southwest side of Grasmere are pastures owned by the National Trust, and years ago the public was granted access on a permissive basis. It is very popular with walkers, over 2000 per day at the peak. Many of these walkers are elderly, perhaps unsurprisingly, as there are not many flattish walks in the vicinity. For families with children, it’s a good place: no need to watch out for traffic. The cycleway was proposed along this lakeside path, and behind the beach on a causeway at the foot of Grasmere. Changes to rights of way require a legal process. However, when the matter came before the Rights of Way Committee, the loss of tranquillity at the lakeshore was ignored and that part of the cycleway was created. There had been opposition to the scheme by members of the committee. However, because they had declared their views before the meeting, they were banned from taking part as having a “predetermined position”. What probably predetermined the outcome was that money had been allocated and had to be spent. However, the outcome was not quite as harmful as had been suggested. Mountain bikers stayed away “No fun in that”. Cyclists with machines having narrow tyres are few in number because of the roughness of the stones. The causeway behind the beach at the foot of Grasmere was not built. The landowner here reneged on his prior consent for the embankment, as LDNPA had refused planning permission for a scheme of his elsewhere.

Elsewhere, some cycleway proposals have been less controversial. After storm Desmond when the A591 was closed, a new cycleway was created, bypassing the closed stretch of road. It was opened with a speech by the chief executive in a storm of hail and snow near the summit of Dunmail Raise. This route is part of a national cycle way. This runs from Uxbridge to Threlkeld, although the number of people who wish to cycle from Threlkeld to Uxbridge must surely be limited. The most used off-road cycleway is probably that which runs from near Wray Castle to the western terminal of the Windermere ferry. Future re-openings include the Keswick to Threlkeld railway footpath as a tarmacked cycleway. That it is to be given a road-like surface is a matter of local controversy, for it implies that any walkers will need to be wary of fast cyclists. Against that, it will be usable both by mountain bikers and by cyclists with lightweight narrow tyre cycles. The route includes new bridges replacing the former railway bridges that were swept away in storm Desmond. Compared with off-road cycleway networks in Germany and Austria, there is much still to be achieved.

Some long standing proposals e.g. off road from Windermere to Ambleside have been abandoned as being too hard to achieve. The land acquisition process would have been difficult.

A further problem in trying to thread a new off road network for cyclists into an existing road network is that it may result in cyclists having to cross major roads more often, at points where road traffic is at speed.


1.3 Unsolved problems of Leisure

1.3.1 The growth of tourism

1.3.2 Hotels and lakeshore development

1.3.3 Other tourist accommodation: lodges, pods, glamping, caravans, campervans, and camping.

1.3.4 Houseboats on Grasmere

1.3.5 Zipwire across Thirlmere.

1.3.6 Greater numbers, proliferation of “events”

1.3.1 The growth of tourism

People with time and money like to travel. Just the aristocracy at first, but since the development of the railways, leisure travel has been possible for the majority of the population. The travel ambitions of the public have expanded to include first Europe and now much further afield, to the extent that tourism is now perhaps largest industry in the world.

Visitors have been coming to the lake district since the time of Wordsworth, and the numbers continue to rise. Without any future change in the behaviour of tourists, the number of UK visitors will rise, because of the rising population of the UK. The behaviour of visitors can change, if they have more time, or if they have more money, or both. Visitors may arrive from other markets, from China, South East Asia. Most recently, the number of visitors is rising at 5% per annum. If this were to continue, the number of visitors will more than double by 2035. As well as an increase in numbers has come more varied leisure activities[PT1] and accommodation options. Trends in camping, caravanning, motor homes, boats with accommodation, luxury glamping or pods all have implications for the park: likewise activities such as off-roading and marathon sports and events for swimmers, cyclists and summit-baggers. This year’ innovation is stand-up paddleboards. The pressure for development is unrelenting. When the national parks were created in 1949, little of all these changes could have been anticipated.

Remarkably, this uncertainty about the future was anticipated within the legislation:

Section 11A of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (amended by Section 62 of the Environment Act 1995) makes clear that if National Park purposes (including economic prosperity, vibrant and resilient communities) are in conflict then conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area must have priority. This is known as the ‘Sandford Principle’ and stems from the Sandford Committee’s recommendation in 1974, that the enjoyment of the National Parks “shall be in a manner and by such means as will leave their natural beauty unimpaired for the enjoyment of this and future generations”.

This looks pretty unequivocal. However, how should the economic pressures to capitalise upon the expansion of tourism reflect this constraint? A matter of interpretation! Let’s look at what has been happening in the categories of accommodation, and in the new and well-established activities.

1.3.2 Hotels and lakeshore development.

The first major hotel building phase followed the opening of the railway station at Windermere in 1846. The early hotels were best able to take up the most obviously attractive sites, by the station, or on the waterfront of Windermere or Grasmere. The attractions of these locations remain, so hotels so located have not only remained, but prospered and expanded. The smaller guesthouses that followed in urban sites in Bowness and Ambleside now suffer from the disadvantage of having elderly premises, that are hard to modify to accommodate present day preferences. When on the market, small nineteenth century hotels change hands for little more than a large house. Running a hotel is not a get rich quick scheme.

Nevertheless, larger hotels frequently try to modernise or expand. There were three such applications in Grasmere in 2019. A distinction needs to be drawn between modernisation and expansion. Throughout the world hotel standards are rising, so it is a matter of basic health for the hotel sector that standards match these. Expansion is another matter, for the small scale character of the destination village could easily be altered for the worse by out of scale expansion. Interestingly, one of the recent modernisation schemes in this locality resulted in the hotel having slightly fewer bedrooms.

All such schemes have to go through the planning application process. One such scheme was refused planning permission. An appeal was made against the decision. The inspector allowed the appeal, saying that the lack of parking space in the centre of the village was not a problem as guests could arrive on the local bus service. The parking problem has been exacerbated.

The largest hotel expansion scheme in Grasmere was that of the former Prince of Wales Hotel, the oldest in the village. It is located within the conservation area that includes Dove Cottage and the Jerwood centre of the Wordsworth Trust. It has a handsome southern façade, but by the end of the 20th century was in need of some serious improvements. Some demolition on site was required, but all the proposals included an entirely new wing. Unsurprisingly it was a matter of some local controversy. In the course of 13 planning applications between 2006 and 2012, the scheme evolved. Large glazed areas were abandoned in favour of more traditional windows. One consequence of this is that the restaurant gives no views over Grasmere Lake. The earliest included some 5 storey parts. Later applications were for 4 storey extensions, no higher than the original Victorian structure. Much of the new structure is topped with a flat roof, but this was not apparent to the ground level viewer, as a traditional pitched slate roof formed the edges to the flat part. Early versions of the plan included a sweeping circular vehicle approach to reception at first floor level, but this was abandoned for a less ostentatious reception at ground level. The plan included two large adjoining function rooms. There was some local concern that these 2 function rooms could serve as a large conference centre for 600 delegates. This concern was unjustified as the function rooms were less than 3m high, so no speaker at one end would be visible at the other. The hotel is located on low ground close to the lake. The applications included the report of water consultants. The 2012 application sought to lower the level of the lower ground floor, from 63.8m above AOD to 63.44m AOD, and this was granted. The risk of a flood was less than one in a hundred years. Unfortunately, storm Desmond in December 2015 did flood the hotel, which then had to remain closed for over a year.

Expanding a building in a conservation area, on land at risk of flooding are not the only potential hazards facing a hotelier who wishes to adapt to the 21st century. One 19th century hotel has an ideal location but for one factor. It is within a few yards of the water of Windermere, but separated from it by the A591. This road is subject to frequently occurring traffic jams, but hotel guests need to cross this to reach the boat jetties. Wedding parties like to cross the road to reach the lakeside lawns for photos. There had been an application made by the hotel for a pedestrian subway beneath the road. Permission was granted in 2002, but it was not built.

There has been a succession of expansion proposals, including one in 2011 for a world class conference centre for 500. This was to have been constructed across the road nearby, on the lake shore. LDNPA for a long time stated that they would not permit development between the A591and the lakeshore. However, an application for a conference centre on this site had been made earlier. Permission was refused by LDNPA, but was then allowed in 2004 after an appeal to central government. There is a device whereby a planning permission can be kept alive, provided that a “material commencement” on implementing the permission is made. This is what happened here. In the 2011 application, approved in December 2013, the owners stated that the convention centre was designed to be self-contained. It was not envisaged large numbers of pedestrians would need to cross the A591. Guests or delegates would predominately travel by boat, the owners wrote. In the event, the centre has yet to be built and the land is mainly used for parking cars and boats. For an intended world class conference centre, its location remote from the nearest international airport would have been a handicap.

Lakeshore development at Waterhead

The A591 comes very close to lake Windermere as it approaches Ambleside. A strip of land just 20m has been the site of a marina, workshops and a launching point for a long time, and has been jointly owned with a car park across the main road. 2019 the owners applied for an expansion of the marina, coupled with additional parking, two substantial dwellings and 5 holiday lets on this 20m strip. The 7 units would be fronted by car turntables, which would permit drivers to rejoin the main road in forward gear. Obviously the site is very cramped, and the bodies consulted as part of the assessment by the planning authority said as much.

Lakes PC recommended: “Refusal on highway safety grounds as this proposal is at a dangerous and narrow point of the A591. The Council feel this is overdevelopment of the site and that the number of car parking spaces is totally inadequate for the 47 berths proposed”.

The National Trust was concerned that the proposed overdevelopment of this site which would in our opinion result in adverse landscape and visual impacts in this location and that this application is deficient in assessment relating to WHS and the preservation of its OUV. We are disappointed that the applicant has not taken the opportunity to address the concerns raised on this proposal by National Trust and by others and revise the application”.

Friends of the Lake District wrote: “We consider that on balance, for reasons of landscape character and wider visual harm due to design (including extensive glazing) scale, massing, materials, intensification of use and overdevelopment of the site, the proposal in its current form should be refused”.

Overdevelopment did not feature in the officer’s report. The nearest was this “5.20 I am comfortable with the general form, scale, design and materials of the units as now shown.”.

Comments from Highway authority.

The Highway authority recommended refusal on the grounds of unsatisfactory visibility up and down the A591. Eventually it conceded:

“Further information provided by the applicant shows that adequate visibility can be provided. Provision of 2.4m x 60m visibility splay should be a condition of any future consent that may be awarded”. Oddly there has been no mention of the restricted visibility available to drivers wishing to enter the A591 from the accommodation units. Visibility might be satisfactory for one driver, provided that all the other units had no car parked in front. The cars parked on the turntables are shown on application plans to be virtually touching the pavement edge, which is only 1.6m wide in places. The highway authority was also concerned about construction:

“No further information has been supplied regarding construction impact. It is essential that all construction activity takes place withinthe site without any temporary closure of the A591. This must be secured before any form of consent is awarded.”

(Any closure of the A591 causes widespread chaos because of the 56km diversion.)

The planning officer’s reaction: “5.38 This restriction is considered to be unreasonable.” She proposed no such condition


The Transport Statement by the applicant’s consultants states that there were only 4 personal injury accidents on the A591 nearby (between 2014 and 2018), and one fatal accident in 2019. Bearing mind that the application is for a marina, and that most boat owners will have to walk across the busiest road in the central lake district, carrying with them all the clobber associated with boat ownership and maintenance, this does not suggest that the impact of the proposal would be improved safety. For the 15000 drivers per day this would be one more hazard to negotiate, and not a positive contribution to their experience of a world heritage site.

What the officer’s report on this was that:

“5.41 I am satisfied that the proposals have adequately addressed the highway issues raised and that it has been demonstrated that the proposals can be delivered without having a detrimental impact on highway safety.”

This conclusion appears to rest upon what was said in the Transport statement. This includes no consideration of the actual traffic flow along the A591, i.e. 15000 vehicles per day. This states that the addition of 5 holiday units will improve road safety.

“Furthermore, as part of the development proposals turntables are proposed on the driveway of each dwelling/holiday house to enable vehicles to enter and exit the proposed development in forward gear and not have to reverse out on to the highway. This will also be an improvement on the existing situation and lead to improved road safety in the area.”

The existing situation is that there are 2 units of accommodation. The addition of 5 units, and a greatly enlarged boat park will not improve road safety on the busiest road in the central lakes.

Cycle lanes:

The transport statement has this to say:

“LDNPA have aspirations to extend cycle routes in the area to improve opportunities to travel by bike including along the western edge of the A591 past the site. The applicant is currently in discussion with the park authorities about how the development can help facilitate this.”

The present position for cyclists described thus: “The road is not wide enough to provide both a cycle lane and general traffic lane alongside each other in each direction. As a result, the cycle lane is provided within the general traffic lane”.

The officer’s report offers no hope of any improvement:

“5.57 Providing an accessible offroad connection between two of the Lake District’s largest settlements could deliver improvements to sustainability, health, safety and visitor experience. The development plan states that we will work with partners to facilitate cycle routes around Windermere and between Bowness and Ambleside, as part of the Keswick to Kendal cycleway (CS07). The development plan does not however provide a policy framework to require landowners to offer provision for such a route on private land as part of a development (tourism or otherwise), nor does it identify or safeguard a specific route for such a scheme. Where a scheme is compliant with development plan policy and acceptable in all other respects, the absence of an accessible off-road route for the public does not amount to a reason to withhold planning permission”.

The application site is in need of renewal as a marina, but at a far more modest scale. The most specific policy of LDNPA is to not permit new open market housing. It is ignored here. The two dwellings, 4 bedroom each, are not replacement for a bungalow and a bedsit, but conspicuous unsightly large scale additions. Nor is there is no shortage of holiday new holiday lets.

The conclusion here can only be that LDNPA is biased in favour of development, at the expense of road safety, sustainable transport and overdevelopment. What members were not told was that the whole site was Registered Common Land, and that the development cannot go ahead, unless this land is de-registered, following the necessary legal procedures.

One problem facing hoteliers concerns staff accommodation. Were the hotels able to rely upon the resident population for their staff, this would not be an issue. As things stand, large scale tourism sites such as the Langdale estate hotel and timeshare provide a daily bus service from Workington and Whitehaven for their employees, 40 miles plus each way. Hoteliers claim that to get staff, they must be able to offer accommodation. In the past, hoteliers who found it difficult to obtain permission to increase bedroom numbers, would instead gain planning permission for staff accommodation, and subsequently convert this to guest accommodation. There is now a possible period of transition. In one part of Grasmere, a hotel has recently gained planning permission for an entirely new 2 storey block of staff accommodation. In another part of the village, a hotel is proposing to demolish an entire block of staff accommodation, and replace it with new guest accommodation. This would mean that the total building floorspace would increase only a little. Maybe this is intended to ease the bother in gaining planning permission. It is not unknown for hoteliers to buy up nearby dwellings for staff accommodation, reducing the available housing supply. Reducing staff in-house provision will increase the total amount of travel, and LDNPA sees this as an adverse development.

1.3.3 Other tourist accommodation: lodges, pods, glamping, caravans, campervans, camping and houseboats.

Whilst hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation have had a lengthy history, other forms of accommodation are more recent, and indeed more capable of change, possibly over a short time span. AirBnB is an example. A common theme has been the growth of self-catering accommodation, as an addition to the choice, but also as a replacement of established uses. Often B&B accommodation can readily be changed to short term holiday rental. Some changes may have little wider impact, and may not require any planning impact. However, when the change is from full time occupation to second homes, or to weekly let holiday homes, the social impact is considerable, and this will be a subject of the next section on housing.

The biggest current change concerns the evolution of camping, involving more comfort and shelter. For changes to occur there needs to be both motives and opportunities. Weather may be one motive. New products, such as pods, glamping luxury tents, and “shepherds’ huts” provide the opportunity, when there are more people and money. The development of the latter will be partly the result of the fact that non-permanent structures on wheels may not require planning permission. This also explains the abandoned lorries that adorn the vicinity of motorways, bearing advertising hoardings. Shepherds huts, being on wheels, are classified as caravans. However, if they are to be on site all year, then they are classified as static caravans, which are required to meet conditions concerning their environmental impact. At a camp site near Rydal, permission was refused for five such huts, on the basis of their impact upon the environment; but then allowed on appeal by an inspector who suggested that the huts could be located out of public view. He imposed a condition that other - larger - forms of caravan could not subsequently replace these huts classified as “static caravans”. The huts are quite small, containing one double bed, one single bed and a stove. Toilet facilities are elsewhere.

Alongside these come camping pods. Camping pods vary in design, originally in effect just rigid tents with two beds and a doorway, beneath an arched roof. Now they are larger, generally prefabricated, typically 6.3m long, 3.2m wide, and contain a double bed, shower and W.C., and a kitchenette. They fall into the same category as static caravans. Small clusters are being developed on many farms, often with official encouragement, for farmers’ incomes are uncertain, not helped by Brexit or the virtual unsaleability of wool. In a landscape that is wooded or has rocky outcrops, the visual impact of a small group may be minimal. This is not always the case. Anyone approaching Keswick from Penrith on the A66 will see a group of 6 conspicuously sited on the right. The planning officer’s report said:

“I am satisfied that the development would relate satisfactorily to the farm group and that the development would not be intrusive in the landscape. Some additional planting to soften the development in views from the east would be beneficial and can be required by condition”. No such condition was imposed.

Next step up come lodges, possibly called shepherds huts, including a shower and W.C. Location appears to be crucial in their acceptability. Easedale is the most beautiful and tranquil valley near Grasmere. 3 shepherds huts were proposed in the grounds of a listed building that had associations with Wordsworth, and was a long-established hotel. Planning permission was refused, and the appeal against this was dismissed, the inspector saying “I therefore find that the proposed cabins would not preserve the grade II listed building Lancrigg and would be harmful to the surrounding landscape and WHS. (World Heritage Site).”

He mentioned that the proposal could be harmful to red squirrels in the area. He did not mention the 21 letters of representation received, although these had been referred to in the LDNPA officer’s report recommending refusal of the application.

Visitors who own campervans do not have to rely upon any accommodation provider for a visit to the lakes. This possibility of spontaneity is a great asset. They can leave home on the strength of sunny weather forecast for the weekend. Official sites may provide hook-ups, and allocated flat pitches, but regular visitors will have noted where there are quiet lay-byes, or hospitable publicans with spare vehicle parking. If the owners of parked camper vans are disturbed, they do have the fall-back position of driving away. Residents or farmers nearby who are disturbed do not have this option.

Against the trend towards greater comfort and sophistication in accommodation, there has also been a growth in wild camping. This has a long history, and people go wild camping with different motives. For some it is simply a very cheap way to stay in the lakes, for others it is more the chance to have a complete change from the everyday, to wake up at sunrise in the high fells beside a mountain tarn. Both reasons seem entirely legitimate. People without much money should still be able to come and enjoy the lakes. Equally people earning lots of money might still wish to have a complete break from that activity. However, wild camping does require some skills, efforts and determination. TV programmes may make high fell camping seem enticing and easy. Official guidance on wild camping can be wildly irrelevant: “Contact the landowner before camping” is rarely helpful. There is a further problem, in that tents have become so inexpensive as to be regarded as disposable after a single use. Novice wild campers getting cold and soaked by 4 a.m. may simply abandon the whole idea and all their gear, leaving a substantial and hard to collect litter problem as a consequence of their visit. At least some wild campers deserve the scornful epithet of having all the gear, but no idea.

1.3.4 Houseboats on Grasmere.

Perhaps the most unexpected category of leisure accommodation arose from an application made in December 2019. This was for a Certificate of Lawfulness. If issued, LDNPA would verify that a certain activity was an existing use and quite legal. It was not a planning application. None would be required if the certificate were issued.

It was by Lowther estates, a big landowner, for 10 houseboats, with 6 berths, to operate on Grasmere lake. It would completely destroy the tranquillity of the centre of the Lake District, and was hopelessly impractical. It mentioned no jetties, made no reference to how moorings were made, rubbish removed etc. It did state that the boats would be electrically powered. There existed a bye-law that prohibited the use of motorised vessels on Grasmere and the other small lakes of the national park, maximum penalty £20. However, it defined motor powered as having an internal combustion engine. It is only possible to speculate how and why the proposal was made. Lowther estates owned the lake and nearby land at White Moss where there are parking and picnic facilities. The LDNPA was selling off woodland that connected these. Ownership of this woodland would permit boat owners to reach the lake from the Lowther car park.

The application resulted in a huge amount of local and national opposition. The number of letters of objection exceeded a hundred. Objections culminated in two lakeside demonstrations, with press and TV coverage. The second one took place on a day of strong winds and driving rain. The local MP spoke, a group of ladies swam in the lake.

The story of the objections had begun on 30th December when a small group met, including the local County Councillor, Will; a former village postman, Andy; and Kingsley, a member of the local mountain rescue team. He had previously organised a pressure group against a proposal for a zip wire across Thirlmere, and was thoroughly conversant with social media, and the practicalities of getting national publicity and official support for demonstrations etc. Andy quickly learned what was needed and soon all social groups in the village, from young Facebook users to WI members and wealthy property owners in the big houses were activated. The Grasmere Village Society and the Women’s Institute had working e-mail contact lists. Soon most of the village knew what was proposed, and how to give their views to the park authority. A friendly London planning law QC agreed to write objecting, and when a wealthy Grasmere resident offered to fund a legal “opinion” he was happy to oblige. His description of the proposal was as a “maritime caravan park”. By the end of January, Lowther Estates withdrew their application. If there is a general lesson it is that if all the various groups in a community can act together, a pressure group can make an impact. Sadly, if the community had confidence in the decision-making capacity of the park authority, the whole campaign would have been unnecessary. Smaller villages with a majority of holiday cottages probably do not have enough local residents to muster community action.

1.3.5 Zipwire across Thirlmere.

Another example of the pressure for tourism developments was the 2017 proposal for a zip wire. It would run from high on the ridge to the west of Thirlmere, down across this reservoir, terminating after crossing over the A591 in the valley. There was already a successful zipwire business, located near but not within the Snowdonia national park. Customers are driven high into the mountains, mainly through a landscape of former quarry workings, softened by nature over time where a lake has been formed. The descent is a great deal quicker.

The proposed lower terminus of the Thirlmere scheme was to be located near Swirls car park run by the national park. This provides a good starting point for walkers ascending Helvellyn, and is also on an off-road cycle route circling Thirlmere. A subway has recently been built under the A591, as the only seriously expensive part of this cycle route. There is no road access to the proposed upper terminal, but the Ordnance Survey map shows an old forestry road ending very close by. This had been virtually impassable, but shortly before the application was made the forestry road was completely rebuilt, surfaced with slate chippings, 4m wide with drains on both sides. There was no forestry in apparent readiness for harvesting in the vicinity of the new road.

There were a large number of individuals and organisations that opposed the proposal, and some such as the Cumbria Local Economic Partnership LEP supporting it. However, the letter settling the matter came from the Ministry of Defence:

“Therefore, this application could cause a significant hazard and it would significantly impact upon vital military training conducted in this area.

The MOD therefore objects to this application”.

The application was withdrawn. The question remains as to how the application got so far. It would have ended the tranquillity of a broad area. It appears to be a case that application of the Sandford principle would have ruled it out at an early stage.

The applicant cited a strategy in the Partnership Plan for 2015 to 2020 was that the plan included as a strategy to “promote and create new and existing opportunities for outdoor adventure on foot, bicycles and ropes, in and out of water, and through events, all sensitive to the unique landscape”. All the activities mentioned require active participation and exercise. Riding on a zip wire is an expensive thrill, but not in this category. The structures needed and the environmental impacts are not sensitive to the landscape. The partnership plan is not often quoted in planning applications. The irony about the decision process is that groups interested in the quiet enjoyment of the lakes rarely have to thank the Ministry of Defence, whom they normally cast as villains because of the dreadful noise caused by low flying jets.

Since the withdrawal of this application, another application for a zip wire, near the top of the Honister pass, has been granted approval.

1.3.6 Greater numbers, proliferation of “events”.

In addition to the effects on the landscape causing by new tourism projects, there are effects simply caused by increased use. Small numbers of hikers arriving at summits may have little impact. Increasing numbers may be acceptable on the routes up, but summits can become congested, the tranquillity lost. Further growth makes the approaches congested. Paths become eroded, and then get widened as walkers find vegetation underfoot not as hard on the feet as loose rough stone. Satellite photography clearly shows this. Projects such as “Fix the fells” are needed.

Similar problems arise on the lakes from increased use. Small numbers of speedboats may co-exist with small numbers of sailing boats, rowing boats and swimmers. Large numbers cannot. It was a long time coming, with accidents being a stimulus to change, but now speed boats now cannot exceed 10knots.

On green lanes, the occasional use of these by a farmer in a landrover will not disturb occasional walkers or cyclists too much. A convoy of similar vehicles hired out to tourists will. In the case of speed boats, regulations for the public benefit have been enacted, for the use of green lanes there are merely un-enforced codes of practice. Just as there was a pro speedboat lobby, there is a lobby for the retention of off-road 4x4 use, and for trail bike use. 4x4 vehicles of necessity move slowly on “challenging” routes, quad bikes are less restricted, and trail bikes in the hands of youngsters can beat on-road speed limits.

Problems such as these are additional to the transport problems already described.

The lake district is an obvious venue for sporting competitions and gathering of many sorts, from caravan clubs, to religious conventions, and car enthusiast groups. Some of these are of long standing. The Keswick to Barrow walk or the Fred Whitton Challenge attract both local and visitor participation. For infrequent occurrences this is not too much of a strain upon the infrastructure, and may simply be good for the prosperity of the tourist economy. As numbers and scale increase, the problems may begin to outweigh the benefits. When thousands converge upon Wasdale as part of national mountain ascending competitions, the capacity of campsites, toilet facilities etc is far exceeded. When the Great North Swim blocks roads, or when marathons necessitate local road closures, then the local disruption is substantial. Events now include more runs, orienteering, and “Swim run” events. Despite the best efforts of the organisers, most events leave a trail of litter, or un-collected direction signs for participants. Given the entry fees charged for these events, there is serious money to be made by the organisers, even allowing for the associated costs of marshals and safety officers.

Unfortunately, LDNPA have yet to realise that that there is any limit to the capacity of the area for these, because the idea has been promulgated that the national park should become the “Adventure capital” of the country. This appears nowhere in the stated purposes of the park.


1.4. Unsolved problems of housing:

National parks in the USA have one characteristic UK national parks do not have. American national parks do the not a resident human population. The parks have gates. Access by visitors can be, and is, controlled.

Within the lake district there is a population of some 40000, and there are no gates to the park. This population is very diverse and articulate. It will include some with ancestors in the area, and many others who have moved into the lake district because of its perceived attractions. This spectrum will include the very wealthy, but also migrant labour to serve the tourist industry.

In recent years accent of the bar staff has changed from aussie or white south African to east European, and will doubtless change again.

1.4.1 The distorted housing market.

The influx of visitors over the long term has resulted in a consistently distorted housing market, making property prices unaffordable to many. Thus there is a daily morning influx of traffic from outside the park. Large timeshare operations within the park bus in much of their workforce on a daily basis, from the West Coast towns of Workington and Whitehaven, and to a lesser extent from Kendal. The provision of staff accommodation is a big headache for hoteliers, but a much bigger problem for youngsters who have grown up within the park, but stand little chance of buying property of their own inside the park.

Clearly, this housing problem has existed for decades. Indeed, charities such as the Lakeland Housing Trust, to provide accommodation for local people, were founded in the 1930s. Subsequent development, such as the sale of council housing under Margaret Thatcher, have exacerbated the problem. Present day housing associations work under difficult constraints. To charge tenants at least 80% of open market costs limit their effectiveness, because of the price level of open market rentals. Long term open market rentals are in short supply, because of the commercial attractions of short term holiday letting. Some villages in the centre of the lake district, such as Elterwater, may look pretty but have simply ceased to be functioning villages, with the majority of housing used by short stay tourists.

1.4.2 Village changes.

The effects of this change in the composition of villages are various. Some are specific to the lakes, but some are much more widespread. Rural depopulation may have gone further in France than in the U.K. The closure of bakeries, post offices and pharmacies is not unique to our national park. These changes may be regarded as market driven. However the trend has been exacerbated by things like governmental changes in rural pharmacy grants, reductions in the role for post offices, closure of part time rural GP surgeries. These changes create increased need for travel by local residents

Some fortunately located local shops have adapted well. The locally run Co-op in Chapel Stile in the central lakes that is close to the large Langdale time share can provide for the needs of self-catering visitors, and a café upstairs, yet still keep the role of a small general store, where you can purchase wellies and hardware. However, national trends predominate, and home deliveries by the major supermarkets become more prevalent. For schooling, larger villages still have primary and junior classes. Total pupil numbers vary according to school reputation and its willingness to import children by minibuses. City dwellers may find it surprising that most villages possess a functioning village hall.

1.4.3 The response of officialdom.

Just as LDNPA is not a transport authority, it is equally not a housing provider. It does have a role in allocating sites for affordable housing provided by housing associations. Because the housing problem has become so acute, and recognised as such politically, officialdom has produced a plan. Cumbria Choice is a scheme for letting most of the social rented property in Cumbria. It is a partnership between the district councils and 8 social housing providers. Top of the list for council or housing association accommodation, come people with the most urgent need. Somewhat lower comes the choice of location offered to potential tenants. Therein lies a problem. Would-be tenants are offered a choice of locality, but locality is defined broadly. Thus a tenant seeking accommodation in a Grasmere housing scheme could be offered accommodation in Bowness, 10 miles away, or vice versa. Changes afoot in 2020 would further broaden the extent of “locality” to include Staveley, further from Grasmere than is Bowness.

Within Grasmere are two recent projects by housing associations. Unsurprisingly it had been difficult to find sites, but the local community had accepted the need for them, because of the recognised local need. That locals took to mean the known need of local Grasmere residents.

Fortunately there are other charitable local housing associations operating independently that are not bound by the same geographical and rental level criteria.

The new LDNPA local plan will not permit new open market housing but it will make provision for a minimum of 1,200 new permanent homes intended to meet to meet local community needs, eligibility restricted to permanent residents. Such houses could be resold with a local occupancy condition. The aim is to achieve a better balance in the housing market. This is a worthy ambition, particularly if it can be used to provided suitable housing for the elderly.

Within central lakes the LDNPA is in a near impossible position. Towns such as Ambleside are hemmed in on the one side by mountains and on the other by flood plains, and the aftermath of storm Desmond in 2015 means that development on flood plains is seen as increasingly impossible. In former versions of the park local plan, settlements were shown as having development boundaries. These have now disappeared from the plans, on the basis that development proposals should be assessed on their own merits. This must make matters harder for the bureaucrats, because prospective developers could look at the plans and clearly see what was worth considering, and what would be out of the question. The former development boundaries would have taken into consideration all the factors including landscape impacts relevant to the grant of permission.

1.4.4 Private sector responses.

At the other end of the financial spectrum, there are problems caused by wealthy would-be mansion buyers. The LDNPA makes very few unequivocal policies. It has however made it crystal clear that within the national park no new open market housing will be permitted. This has the effect that well-located houses (e.g. good lake and mountain views) in any condition but capable of enlargement achieve huge purchase prices. Even remote lakeland valleys such as Eskdale now have examples of mansions (some incongruously labelled “farm”) with huge new floor to ceiling windows introducing a jarring note in the landscape. The authority has no policy of limiting the scale of house extensions. All this is at a time when many long term, growing elderly, local residents would greatly benefit by being able to downsize to a lower maintenance small property. The demolition of quite modern property to facilitate replacement with more grand residences is no longer uncommon. Government ambitions that housing schemes should always contain some “affordable” housing simply have no relevance where no new open market housing is permissible.

The much-favoured route to house expansion is through the garage. If a property has no garage, or only a small one, then it is a relatively straightforward matter to gain planning permission for a new garage. Likewise, if the property has a shed or better still a barn adjacent, conversion to “ancillary accommodation” is not that big a step. The garage should be amply big enough for at least 2 cars, could do with a toilet for the gardener, and of course should have a pitched slate roof to blend with surrounding and to allow a studio or games room in the attic. In effect a new house. A variant of this is available to owners of properties that have some building in a ruinous state within their grounds. Development of a dwelling here might gain authorisation as tourist accommodation on a “brownfield” site.

There is an alternative route used by developers to overcome the strict limits upon new development, and that to exploit the permission given if a Certificate of Lawfulness can be obtained. If a development (meaning a building or a change in use) can be carried out without planning permission, and this is unchallenged for 4 years, that development becomes legal. To obtain the certificate, the applicant has to assert the use or the building has been there for 4 years. If the authority has no evidence to the contrary, then the word of the applicant is to be accepted. Given the constraints upon the resources of the authority, it is impossible to have knowledge at the level of detail required as to what is happening. It might help if rating authorities were to notify planning authorities whenever a new dwelling is added to the rating list. However, this evidence may be disregarded, as this quotation from an officer's report shows: "Although the property has not been registered for council tax the absence of registration does not amount to my mind as deliberate concealment of the claimed use."

Through the use of certificates of lawfulness, barns become houses, caravans for short term visitors are claimed to be full time residences, so can become dwellings, maybe with occupancy conditions. People think of buying a house within the lake district should read the small print at the foot of estate agents particulars to see if it says “Note, this property cannot be used as a full time residence”.

The overall inference must be that for housing plans the LDNPA has established an overall strategic policy (i.e. no new open market houses). At a local level it needs to regain public credibility. For social housing the authority has not had a major role, and as yet none at all for local needs housing for the elderly within the park. At a local scale, the well known loopholes described above mean that the planning system is not held in good repute. This however is not mainly the fault of LDNPA, for they are bound by national legislation. Better enforcement could only be achieved if the authority had more resources.

Part 2 Capacity

2.1 Transport capacity.

Problems of definition: the shifting baseline, environmental threshholds,

Decision resistance.

Choices to be made concerning transport.

2.1.1 Capacity of the A591 between Windermere and Ambleside

2.1.2 Road access within the rural park.


2.1.4 Buses within central lakes.

2.1.5 Facilities for Cycling

2.1.6 Green Lanes

Having described existing problems, the next step is to consider how these problems may change. Which are the most important trends? If there is a common theme to the problems described, it is that usage of the park is increasing. In general, this means more tourists. More specifically it means more hotel bed spaces, more holiday letting accommodation, more pods, more campers, more hikers, more cyclists and so on.

Does this broad increase necessarily create problems?

Problems are in two forms. Problems that are soluble, in part or in full, for some or most parties, and problems that have to be lived with, phlegmatically or fatalistically. The increase in road traffic is something that has occurred year by year, a bit at a time. Driving skills of road users adapt as motorways get busier. If the traffic congestion experienced within the lake district had occurred suddenly, so that the travel conditions now experienced changed overnight from those of 40 years ago, then I think an extreme reaction would be likely. The reaction in practice has not been so extreme. This is an example of “shifting baseline syndrome”. This suggests that perceptions of “normal” environmental conditions are degraded with each passing generation. Older people have had more time to gather experience of change, both objectively and subjectively.

There are however practical steps that travellers can take. Road users can adapt to changing circumstances, most obviously by changing their travel times. Many visitors are now aware that it makes little sense to try to enter the central lakes on a Friday evening, or to leave on Sunday afternoon. Other visitors, unable to change their travel times, conclude that an extended journey time, say 40 minutes for the 4 miles between Windermere and Ambleside, is just part of the costs for a weekend getaway. There remain limits to how far this adaptation can go.

That is the position in 2020. The LDNPA looks forward to 2035. We can expect visitor numbers to increase. The question arises as to whether visitors will simply adapt their behaviour further in their usage of the lake district, or whether some kind of action would be preferable. This is the kind of question that is arising in other contexts, such as climate change. An important part of user behaviour concerns traffic. In this and other aspects of usage we could be facing an environmental threshold. This is a point at which the environment or ecosystem cannot recover. Once an ecosystem passes a threshold, it cannot return to its original state.

The idea of an environmental threshold is a nebulous concept. Nevertheless, the founding documents of the National Park indicate that there are definite limits, or constraints upon what should happen within national parks. If these limits are exceeded, then what is lost has gone.

There is no doubt what attracts people to the area. The official guide to the National Park from 1969 says it is the “grandeur of its incomparable countryside”, its “peace and tranquillity”, where visitors can exercise their muscles on its fells and lakes, and find solace of the mind. Current policy documents are remarkably similar. In its Management Plan 2015-2020 the LDNPA writes:

“To walk freely across the fells, or climb their crags, is liberating and gives a sense of discovery and achievement. There is a feeling of wildness, offering personal challenges for some and impressive open views for everyone. … These characteristics provide important opportunities for spiritual refreshment: a release from the pressures of modern day life and a contrast to the noise and bustle experienced elsewhere.”

So Canon Rawnsley’s words still apply. What is needed is a Lake District “undisfigured and ‘secure from rash assault’ for the health, rest and inspiration of the people”.

With the increased usage of the lake district it is at least possible that we are approaching a “tipping point”, beyond which the recovery of national park qualities becomes impossible. This makes it more important to identify thresholds beforehand, if we are to make sensible policy decisions. Capacity is not a subject considered in the LDNPA local plan. Identifying some thresholds can be easy. The capacity for additional new land for housing in locations such as Ambleside is close to zero, with steep fellsides and floodplains giving powerful constraints. The actual traffic capacity of main roads can also be indicated with some degree of certainty, but to quantify the number of glamping pods environmentally acceptable, or the environmental capacity of narrow country lanes, is altogether more problematic. There are choices to be made.

Decision resistance

Before examining specific choices to be made, it needs to be recognised that all choices that entail some sort of restriction are subject to problems concerning the allocation of responsibility, more prosaically: buck passing. This is not avoided even if there is a clear official allocation of responsibility. Within the National Park, things are less clear. Whilst Cumbria County Council is the highway authority, the LDNPA also has the power – which it has rarely used - to make Traffic Regulation Orders.

Suppose the county council is asked to produce a scheme for limiting the number of tourists’ cars into a quiet lakeland valley of single track lanes. The district councils would certainly be consulted and the county itself has a local area committee. Parish councils, with very few actual powers, would also be consulted. County councillors, aware of possible adverse publicity from the proposal, can excuse themselves from taking a decision by saying it must act with the support of the parish and district. Parish councils, most closely in touch with local opinion, may well find parts of any scheme to be objectionable. You cannot make an omelette without cracking eggs. Parish councils can excuse themselves from a difficult conclusion because they have no transport planning powers. Proposals to accommodate an exceptional influx of visitors into the national park in the summer after the coronavirus lockdown provide an illustration. Proposals to widen pavements in honeypot locations to facilitate social distancing by the exclusion of kerbside parking were opposed at a local level. Little was achieved. In contrast, measures by the park authority to authorise additional parking in the most crowded areas were not discussed locally, and were rapidly acted upon.

2.1.1 Choices to be made for access to the central lakes.

All residents and most visitors to the central lakes will be aware of the problems experienced on the A591 between Windermere and Ambleside. They are also aware that there are no convenient alternatives. If there were such an alternative, or if there was an obvious solution, it would have been attempted long ago. Just what is the range of possibilities? The “normal” ideas may be dismissed quite readily, but it is necessary to be clear as to why conventional plans are unacceptable. The two most conventional possible measures are these: to widen the road, or to do nothing.

There are clear consequences of the “do nothing” possibility. Visitor numbers are increasing. Nearly all visitors to the central lakes from U.K. cities in north west England and the south have to use the A591. A few may percolate in via the A590 route to Barrow in Furness, from the west of Newby Bridge. Passengers arriving at Windermere by rail do not avoid the problem stretch of road. The opportunity for spreading the duration of the peak flows is limited. Delay to motorists can only increase. That does not complete the picture, because a much-touted policy in circumstances of road congestion is to improve public transport. A number of bus services use this route, the most frequent service in the lake district. If no action is taken, then these buses will be caught up in the worsening congestion. There is no space for separate bus lanes. For cyclists too, the environment will be worsened, although there is a degree of exhilaration in bypassing queues of stationary traffic.

There appears to be only one argument favouring the “do nothing” possibility, and that is that such a policy imposes an upper limit upon the volumes of cars travelling on roads within the central lakes.

The comprehensive widening of the A591 between Windermere (Cooks corner) and Ambleside (Waterhead) is not an idea that appears even in the bottom drawer of highway engineers’ dreams. Maybe it once was. Discounting any environmental concerns, the practical difficulties would be enormous, given the number of properties, particularly hotels, requiring frontage access. An on-line widening would be impossible: a new alignment would be needed for much of the way. Even then, significant property (much very expensive) acquisition would be needed. The existing road provides travellers with some delightful lake views, as it winds along beside Windermere, and elsewhere beneath attractive mature trees. Any on-line widening would be destructive environmentally. Any new alignment likewise. A partial widening in a few places would have little impact upon the congestion problem, and little scope for bus priorities. Even the addition of a single lane, with two lanes inbound at peak time and two lanes outbound, according to peak direction, seems similarly problematic.

The only possible way to alleviate existing and growing congestion seems to be to introduce some form of regulation. This remains anathema to a large proportion of the general public. However, times change. There was a time when the pedestrianisation of historic centres was regarded as impossible. This, of necessity, requires some limitation on the rights of motorists to go anywhere that is tarmacked. The pedestrianisation of historic town centres is now standard practice throughout Europe. There is no longer political objection to congestion pricing in central London. Most German cities now only allow cars with a 4 euro green sticker to enter. In Norway, cars have an Autopass device fitted which automatically registers toll charges, and bills the owner.

What does not appear to have any obvious precedent is the introduction of tolls on to an existing public rural road that has been free. The objections seem to be more political than practical. Practical problems are capable of solution. There is no need for tolling points in the manner of those on M6 toll. Permits to use the road could be on sale at many points before a motorist joins the A591 on this stretch. Passes to use the M25 toll bridge across the Thames are available across the country. Permits or exemptions for local motorists for regular users could be provided for with the use of ANPR automatic number plate recognition.

Likewise exemptions for taxis, buses and emergency vehicles would need to be part of the scheme.

The political difficulties have to be recognised and overcome. Several conditions must be met. The first concerns timing. The right time to introduce such a measure would be in the immediate aftermath of a particular congestion crisis, caused by roadworks or accidents. After a recent traffic accident on this stretch, the road was closed for over 7 hours, causing huge disruption for thousands of people. Minor collisions on the alternative single track roads exacerbated the chaos. The next requirement is a strong transport planning agency, with a powerful leader. Sadly, there is no sign of such a leader locally. The introduction of congestion charging in London needed a Ken Livingston. Next, the details of the scheme need to be right. To retain local support, charges would have to be low, or preferable free. To gain the support of tourism businesses, the benefits to their guests need to be plain, perhaps with a free pass for hotel guests provided with an accommodation receipt. There should be no exemption for day visitors, who are major contributors to the congestion, but contribute little to the local economy. More to the point, the day visitors are unlikely to contribute powerfully in the political decision-making process needed to implement a scheme.

The final problem is to assess what kind of regulatory system is appropriate for the national park as a whole. A flat entry fee from every point of entry to the national park would be a blunt instrument, and not deal with the problem exactly where and when it is most severe. On some “A” roads even on peak days there are no actual congestion problems, just the continuous unpleasantness of nose to tail traffic on roads that are barely wide enough. The specific length of the A591 between Windermere and Ambleside, is definitely a special case. That something should be done here is probably as close to a political consensus as conceivable on any traffic issue. The charges could be variable, with the highest fees linked to the busiest times, free at quiet times, with discounts or exemptions as appropriate. Whilst this could be argued to favour the wealthy, it is in tune with the legacy of Thatcherism, that if you want something you have to be prepared to pay for it. A scheme that produced a financial surplus could provide funding for local transport plan policies, such as bus priorities and new cycleways, but it might make more sense to fund the repair of damage caused by visitors. Funding for litter removal, stone walling repair etc could be provided.

Surprisingly, schemes such as this do not require new legislation. Part III of the Transport Act 2000 empowers traffic authorities (i.e. Cumbria County Council) to introduce charging schemes for road usage. Any financial surplus would have to be used for other local transport measures. If there proves to be the will to introduce a road pricing scheme, but not the courage to introduce something on the scale described, then one route forward would be to try first a scheme for a congested minor cul-de-sac route up a high central valley.

2.1.2 Choices to be made on road access within the rural park.

The case for inaction. As part of a holiday, simply driving through new scenery is an obvious source of enjoyment for the visitor. Exploration is fun, as is doing things spontaneously with the family. How people make their choices on any particular visit will depend, in part, on their previous experiences. If they know that on their last visit they could find nowhere to park, had several occasions when were obliged to reverse on narrow lanes, or had an altercation with some fool to refused to reverse, or scratched their vehicle, then they might vary what they decide to do. They might try different routes, go at “quieter” times. An equilibrium will be reached. For some, it might be that those disadvantages are outweighed by sheer enjoyment of the wider surroundings. For others, the decision might be to no longer visit such a degraded landscape. With this equilibrium, no intervention is required. There would be no need for bureaucratic rules to be studied, and ways round them sought. There would be no unfair extra charges, restricting the scenic pleasures of the area to those wealthy enough to be untroubled by any user expenses.

The case for action, but of what sort?

The traditional approach to a road capacity problem has been to build a new stretch of road. This has fallen out of favour to the extent that there is no reference to it in LDNPA local plan. It should be remembered that quite small scale short lengths of new single carriageway can be used to remedy environmental problems. A short length of road diverts traffic from the centre of Hawkshead, leaving the centre largely free for pedestrians. It may be that there are other possibilities in the future. Probably the distant future. What is evident is that where lengthy modern well-engineered new routes are built, traffic goes faster, which does not add to visitors’ scope to absorb the views.

The present scale of the problem on minor narrow lanes has already been described, but the question of the capacity of the network of lanes is difficult to address. Five cars trying to proceed along a single track road with widely separated passing places, while five cars try to go in the other direction is clearly a problem that does occur. The capacity of the road is exceeded. The timing and duration of such a problem varies greatly. There are numerous such events on many lanes at holiday weekends, but fewer on weekdays. There are many such occasions between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., but fewer before or after that period. Routes to well known parking places at the heads of valleys, or convenient starting points for fell walkers can be very busy early in the day. Routes to rural campsites can be busy quite late in the date.

What this means is that blanket, all day, measures are not appropriate. What is needed is a set of measures that make best use of the lanes, whilst interfering with free movement as little as possible. If most visitors feel, at the end of a visit that “Things were not too bad”, then the case for action of any sort is going to be difficult. Where measures to manage traffic are introduced, they must focus upon locations and times where the problems for visitors are most extreme, and for residents are most persistent.

Measures could be low tech, light touch or radical, or high tech, ditto.

Low tech, light touch methods of regulating traffic on minor roads.

The simplest regulatory measures relate to the information given to drivers by signage. Drivers may set off on a minor road with adequate width for two cars to pass, unaware that further along they will be committed to negotiating a single track length with limited passing opportunities. Advance information about possible parking restrictions can be helpful. However, there are limits to what can be achieved by signage alone, and some information, notably concerning width limits, is widely ignored. Enforcement is unlikely, and there exists no commercial apparatus for identifying offenders.

Within urban areas, the use of road signs to indicate the spaces available in car parks at real time is well established, and is used to a lesser extent for car parks near popular beaches. In some lakeland valleys, such as Great Langdale there are large car parks. Such is the extent of the pressure on kerbside parking that the bus service to the valley head, no longer goes to the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel itself, because of the congestion caused by parked cars on the drive to it. Police traffic cones that prohibit waiting seem a permanent feature of the landscape. A sign indicating the amount of available parking could be located 3 miles down the valley on the approach road B5343 at Elterwater. This would be linked to traffic numbers entering the only car parks up to the valley head, and traffic flows along the way, giving real time information to drivers. This would not impose any obligations or costs upon motorists. Such a measure could have side effects, for example by increasing traffic on the single track lane to Little Langdale via Blea Tarn. On the other hand, the scheme could be refined into a parking rationing scheme by displaying a variable charge for parking at the valley head. The feasibility of schemes of this type should be on the agenda.

Low tech, but radical methods of regulating traffic on minor roads.

There is one radical measure for the regulation of traffic within the National Park which has not been seriously examined and that is close minor roads to private car traffic. There are a number of very minor cul-de-sac routes, generally paved as far as an active or abandoned farmyard, which have very little practical utility except for the fields served, and for a scattering of cottages in holiday or small scale commercial use. Closure would ensure a more tranquil and safe area for families to walk and cycle. Damage to stone walls would be greatly reduced. The litter that is associated with informal verge car parking would be hugely reduced. Until the 1960s the pedestrianisation of town centre shopping streets was regarded as too radical to contemplate, but is now normal. Obviously, to close minor rural roads would need problems to be overcome, for example to arrange for access for residents. However, this closure method is something potentially beneficial that needs consideration, to weigh up legal procedures, the benefits and problems. The legality would be covered by one of the basic justifications for Traffic Regulation Orders:

h. for the purpose of conserving or enhancing the natural beauty of the area, or of affording better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area, or recreation or the study of nature in the area. This includes conserving its flora, fauna and geological and physiographical features.

High tech, light touch methods of regulating traffic and parking.

Recent technical developments offer new opportunities for managing traffic. Automatic number plate recognition ANPR is used by traffic police to identify offenders committing traffic offences, and by car park operators to charge their customers. However, it could also be used, as a matter of choice by motorists, to ease their usage of local parking facilities. Unfortunately, there is currently no consistency in the charging regime of the public and private operators of car parks for the public within the national park. It is possible to envisage the use of ANPR to provide a season ticket for holiday motorists permitting entry to the car parks of all participating operators over a pre-determined period, without any further need for individual purchases.

Once ANPR has found a role in parking management, it may become clearer that it can have a wider role, permitting more radical changes needed to cope with growing visitor numbers. Before considering the radical use of high tech in regulating future traffic, it is necessary to consider the choices to be made over the provision of car parking.

2.1.3 Choices to be made concerning parking.

Large car parks do not exist just by themselves, with no surrounding development. At the very least, there should be toilet facilities, somewhere to exercise the dog, have a picnic, buy a snack. Put another way, a big area of parked cars creates an urban piece of landscape. This in itself indicates that major new car parks should not be located in areas where a wild natural landscape is to be protected.

This is recognised in the LDNPA local plan. It says

We will only support additional vehicle parking provision that helps to reduce the need to travel by private motor vehicle, and contributes to and improves sustainable transport and movement opportunities. We will achieve this by permitting: additional public parking at Transport Interchanges, Gateways, or Rural Service Centres which function as Multi-Purpose Hubs), only where evidence demonstrates it is needed.

The difficulty is this. At peak times the bulk of the visitors (80%+) are in the lakes for the day, and many wish to get into the very heart of the fells, where there is very limited parking and LDNPA has no intention of authorising additional parking. Moreover, there is no existing public transport to heads of the valley locations like Wasdale Head, Kentmere, the Duddon Valley, Ennerdale, Haweswater etc.

There is therefore an existing unsolved problem, that will worsen as visitor numbers increase. The most obvious symptom of which is the free for all competition for any roadside space. The top of the Wrynose pass appears as a mess of flyparking cars and camper vans.

Would the provision of new small car parks closer to the fells badly effect the landscape? Not necessarily. The long established car parks owned by the National Trust at the head of Great Langdale are relatively inconspicuous, as there are groups of trees around. The top of the Honister pass has a somewhat bleak landscape character. Would that be harmed by additional official parking? Both these locations happen to be on bus routes. Additional parking here would not encourage modal transfer. A more powerful general argument against the provision of additional rural car parks is that they would in effect encourage greater use of minor roads that are unsuitable for the present day peak usage.

Thus it seems that LDNPA are right to reject the expansion of public car parks away from rural centres, but there are a number of necessary consequences, not all obvious. If public transport is to be more used by visiting motorists, it means that there must be sufficient parking in the rural centres, and that any new bus services to valley heads would need to run from that centre. At present, Seathwaite is a favoured starting point for the ascent of Scafell Pike. Suppose a new bus service went to Seathwaite at the head of Borrowdale, to help prevent the parking chaos on the road from Seatoller to Seathwaite. That service would have to start from Keswick, and not from a new (quite large) car park at Seatoller.

There is a further complication. The LDNPA local plan proposes that half of all growth will take place in rural service centres. These are designated as transport hubs, so they could be possible new car park locations. Into this category come settlements with very different characteristics and problems: e.g. Staveley, Grasmere and Bootle. Of these, Grasmere has by far the greatest capacity problem. Any additional car parking would entail crowds spilling on to the road because of the narrow width of the pavements, which only exist in parts of the village. Additional car parking seems unlikely to assist a modal shift towards public transport here, or in the other central lakes villages of Hawkshead and Coniston.

If we discard harmful options for the location of additional parking, what remains are the three major centres of the LDNPA area: Windermere, Ambleside and Keswick. If alternatives to the car are found to be necessary for giving access to rural parts, they will need to start from these centres. Not a surprising conclusion, but not part of the current local plan.

2.1.4 Choices to be made for buses within central lakes.

Relative to the wider status of public transport, the position of the bus industry is relatively healthy within the lakes. Subsidies for services to outlying villages have disappeared, following central government cut backs. However, the central corridor north to south from Keswick to Ambleside and Windermere is well served, as is the east west corridor from Penrith to Workington via Keswick. The 555 service has remained with the timetable little changed over decades, with a stop by Windermere station. The X4 and X5 east to west service has a stop at Penrith station. Most of the lesser service bus routes, such as to Great Langdale and Coniston, are operated by full size single deck buses. These vehicles must make driving on the minor roads stressful for their drivers. The buses cause frequent congestion problems when they meet large vehicles in the opposite direction. From the operator’s perspective, it is useful to have spare capacity for the occasional busy time, and buses that are also suitable for use on busier routes. However, from the users’ perspective a more frequent service with smaller vehicles would be much superior. The tourist minibus services, pioneered by Mountain Goat have been widely imitated. They are much used by overseas visitors arriving by train at Windermere.

The LDNPA local plan aspires to facilitate access within the park while reducing car dependence. The big unanswered question is how the policies suggested in this plan will be realised. As there are already within the park private companies operating tourist minibus services successfully, it can be inferred that if there were profitable potential new service routes, then these would be taken up. Put another way, a reduction in car dependence through addition minibus services would require public funding. This nettle has still to be grasped.

2.1.5 Choices to be made on facilities for Cycling

Customs and laws from the nineteenth century and before have a surprising influence on 21st century leisure uses. The long established network of public footpaths within the lakes shows that routes were focussed upon access to parish churches. Between fields access could be by stiles. Gates were not required. Present day recreational needs may be different. One project, called “miles without stiles” is specifically aimed at the provision of routes usable by families with pushchairs. Desired tourist routes are determined more by scenic attractiveness that historical necessity. For this reason, the National Trust created a “permitted route” alongside Grasmere the lake, through fields within its ownership. The network of bridle ways permitted access on horseback. Gates were needed at field boundaries. Cyclists may lawfully use bridle ways, but not footpaths. The historic bridleway network bears little relation to the routes intended to create a safe off-road alternative for cyclists. Not all cyclists will be aware of the historic distinction between bridle ways and footpaths.

Next category up come “roads open to all traffic”, generally having no tarmac, sometimes described as Green Lanes, but signposted as “open ways”. The origin of this category probably lies in their exclusion from the tarmac covering of minor roads in the early years of the twentieth century, on the basis that it was not worthwhile for their very low likely usage. They provided access for farmers to their fields, and access for ramblers and cyclists. However, their use by motorbikes and all terrain vehicles is also legal. This has become a popular recreation, a challenge to drivers and their vehicles, and fun for trailbike users.

Examples were given earlier of existing conflicts between walkers and cyclists. The conflict between these users and motor vehicles on green lanes is greater. There are a number of choices to be made. The first concerns the relation between the rising number of cyclists and walkers.

Off-road cycle routes.

The rising number of cyclists does not mean a reduction in the number of cars. Most bikes arrive in the lakes on the roof or the back of a car. On some public bridleways there are safety issues for pedestrians. Perhaps the most famous footpath in Lakeland is the walk along Loughrigg Terrace. It includes a number of benches for visitors to sit and enjoy the view. This hillside promenade is quite narrow. Walkers need to be in single file in places. It is also a bridle way, unsuitable for road bikes but rideable for mountain bike users.

There are other problems concerning this mixed use. If the bridle way is smooth, and slopes, cyclists go quickly, putting walkers at risk. Fatal traffic accidents are not likely, but walkers may still be frightened or knocked over by the unexpected approach of a high speed cyclist. Bicycles are legally required to have an audible warning of approach, but the law, if satisfied at all, requires only a pathetically feeble tinkler. The problem is more acute if the cycleway is paved. This means that the route is open to cyclists on lightweight racing bikes, as well as electrically assisted bikes. The Keswick to Threlkeld cycleway, a route of a former railway line where bridges had been destroyed in Storm Desmond of 2015, is at the time of writing being tarmacked at the decision of LDNPA. Current policy choices are exacerbating future problems. Keswick Town Council has passed a motion of no confidence in the park authority.

There is a broad consensus that new off-road cycle routes can be acceptable and beneficial within the national park. However, there are genuine difficulties. Where off-road facilities for cyclists have been provided, motorists have some justification for feeling aggrieved at having to wait behind cyclists. The use of cycleways is not obligatory, so cycle routes should be attractive to all user types. Cycleways such as the Monsal Trail, along a 9 mile former railway through the Derbyshire Dales, and not tarmacked throughout, but use quite small stones, described as unsealed firm, so the surface is passable both by mountain bikes and lightweight machines, and it is also claimed to be suitable for wheelchair users. But what do walkers on this route think? ‘Not great for walkers’ is the Trip Adviser verdict. Sustrans, the cycleway promoters, recognise the possible hazards of shared use paths, and issues hints of the: ‘be patient and courteous’ type. All terrain mobility scooters such as the Tramper can cope with quite steep slopes, and have been made available to the public at locations such as Tarn Hows. One problem particular to wet parts of the country is that by late summer, vegetation can intrude across cycleways. Grass just encroaches: brambles grow fast and cause punctures. Small stones get swept across even the best maintained route. Maintenance is the most neglected task. Work by volunteers is unlikely to suffice.

2.1.6 Choices about Green Lanes.

Whilst the park authority has been challenged concerning the provision of a tarmac surface on a cycleway, it has met a legal challenge about its laissez faire policy on green lanes. The challenge was made by GLEAM, the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement. It sponsored the judicial review of the decision by the Rights of Way Committee of LDNPA to not consider the introduction of a Traffic Regulation Order which could have been used to exclude trail motorbikes and 4x4 vehicles from two green lanes. One of these lanes, from Tilberthwaite to Little Langdale had just previously been the subject of £100,000 of highway authority, LDNPA and NT maintenance work before a decision on its future had been made. The lanes are within the Coniston group of fells, characterised as

Predominantly a very tranquil landscape due to the openness and perception of naturalness of the open fells.

The legal action was not against the decision itself, but that the 6 members of the rights of way committee had not been correctly advised by their officers. The officers had supplied members with substantial reports, 70 pages plus, together with appendices. The gist of the officers’ report was this. The terms of reference for national parks make provision for situations when decisions have to be made between conflicting park objectives. In these circumstances, priority has to be given to the objective of providing for “the quiet enjoyment” of the park. However, the conflict of objectives must be irreconcilable. The officers’ report suggested that the conflict could be resolved by “management”, achieved through meetings between proponents and opponents of vehicles on green lanes.

The officers’ report reads as though the whole document was written with the intention of arriving at only one possible conclusion.

e.g. The need for a TRO expressed by the National Trust was dismissed thus: Para 9.5.6. c) The main issue in relation to quiet enjoyment is noise and visitor perceptions as to what people should / could expect when visiting the area – and how this could be impacted upon by MPV use. But no actual data or evidence has been provided by the National Trust.

e.g. Historical references were included, of little 21st century relevance

Para 14.9.14 So, from the above, it could be argued that driving and riding on unsealed roads for the sole purpose of a challenge in the Lake District (rather than to get from A to B) has a history going back more than a century, and is as much a part of the cultural history of the area as many other activities.

In fact, there had been a prior attempt at a managed solution. A “Hierarchy of trail routes” was adopted by LDNPA in the year 2000. A few tattered signs on gates still list some of its requirements. The term first appeared in a document by a pressure group, the Land Access and Recreation Association in 1997. The stated intention was to discourage irresponsible use of green lanes. For example, the proposed code said that “Recreational vehicle users are asked to comply with voluntary restraint controls. 4x4s will be advised not to use certain routes, one way traffic will be recommended on others or users may be asked not to use a route between holiday dates when it is heavily used by walkers and horse-riders.”

In the minutes of the meeting of the Trail Management Advisory Group of September 2003 this was stated:

Policy AR4 was included in the draft National Park that recreational motor vehicle driving should be prohibited on green lanes, unsealed road and byways in the Lake District National Park. In response to this LARA (objectors to this proposal) had withdrawn their co-operation with the Hierarchy of Trails scheme, and would not attend future meetings.

By 2004 the policy AR4 was dropped and LARA rejoined. This suggests that the “management” proposal by the officers in 2020 has little chance of reconciling the irreconcilable. The park chief executive asserts that TROs are a last resort.

After 2006 there were no further attempts to monitor the use of green lanes by groups of 4x4s or trailbike riders. What the committee was NOT told was that there had been that prior attempt to “manage” the 4x4 and trailbike problems, and that it had not worked. Nor was the committee informed that the authority no longer employed anyone (for costsaving reasons) with the specific job of ensuring compliance with planning requirements. The committee voted not to consider the adoption of traffic regulation orders on the two green lanes. In the decision-making at the judicial review, decision dated 21st August 2020, much hinged on the meanings given to “conflict”, “acute conflict” and “irreconcilable conflict”.

GLEAM’s advocate claimed that that members were misdirected in relation to the application of section 11A(2) of the 1949 Act, in that they were told that the trigger for the operation of the Sandford Principle was that there should be irreconcilable conflict.

The Sandford Principle was enunciated by Lord Sandford in 1974, and became incorporated into 1995 legislation. Guidance about application of this legislation was given in circular 12/96. This expected that National Park Authorities and other public bodies would make every effort to reconcile conflicts between the two National Park statutory purposes by encouraging mediation, negotiation and cooperation, "but there may be instances where reconciliation proves impossible." In those cases the conservation purpose would take precedence.

The judge concluded that the committee had not been wrongly advised. He wrote that the officers’ report was part of a process of decision-taking undertaken in the context of a committee meeting at which questions can be raised and further advice sought. I witnessed the committee meeting as a spectator. Some of the arguments made were good, some irrelevant, and some were inaudible as not all speakers were able to use their microphones. As the opinion of the 6 members would count more than the 300,000 petitioners for TROs, one might have expected some telling arguments. Sadly it seemed that for several members, the existence of a 74 page assessment report carried the inference that so much work had been done, the conclusion of officers’ report must be right. Of the 6, one was a former chairman of a motorbike pressure group, another was a proponent of the “Adventure capital of Britain” role for the park. Only one member, the chairman, had sufficient doubts to vote against the officers’ recommendation.

The decision was to create a partnership management group of invited key partners and stakeholders to work collaboratively to monitor usage and condition; undertaking necessary activities to help mitigate any new issues that may arise. The Trail Riders Fellowship and Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement are unlikely to agree. There seems little possibility of progress. Meanwhile 4x4 groups from other areas come to enjoy the freedom they now lack in other national parks. Groups of 4x4 users have come the lakes from Holland. Numerically, the greatest user numbers are young trail bikers, and recreational quadbikers, with no group affiliations. The number of SUVs is not decreasing, giving ordinary motorists wider opportunities for wild camping. information from

2.2 Tourism capacity.

Transport capacity had many aspects, but the question of tourism capacity is even more nebulous, harder to forecast, and difficult to suggest remedies. This is particularly true if problems look as though they could get worse. One possible approach is to look at the different types of tourism, and to try to identify changes in those types that have an impact upon the landscape, upon the local population, the local economy, and indeed upon the enjoyment of other visitors. The extremes are relatively easy to indicate. A stand-up paddleboarder on Grasmere is harmful neither to the tranquillity of the landscape nor to residents or other visitors. It could be classified a tranquil adventure. At the other extreme, when turnstiles are proposed to regulate tourist entry into St Mark’s Square in Venice, then the capacity for tourism has incontestably been exceeded.

An alternative approach to tourism capacity might be to look at how the attractions of the national park are marketed by the tourism bodies, who can be expected to have a good idea as to what visitors are hoping for on a visit here. Cumbria Tourism website puts landscape first, stating that modern tourism began in the lakes, inspiring poets and painters. Adventure comes second, with reference to the current fashion for open water swimming. Fellwalking counts among the adventures, as do the Grizedale zipwires. Culture and events follow on. As with any marketing, an idealised view is presented. Just as advertisements for new cars are always shown against a background of empty roads, the tourism website gives no hint of any dark clouds on the horizon.

Two things are clear. The tourism industry has few concerns about capacity. The aim of Cumbria Tourism is to grow the value of tourism throughout the county. The other is that future tourism is dependent upon economic factors and social habits that can change unpredictably, and worldwide, over a short time span. In terms of crude worldwide hotel capacity, there may well be a surplus. When there was a civil war in former Yugoslavia, all the Croatian hotels closed. There was ample capacity for European tourists to simply go elsewhere. A more recent example might be to ask whether our national park will have many visitors from China next year, or from India and Africa in ten years’ time. Exchange rate changes can affect the number and country of origin of visitors.

The behaviour of U.K. visitors to the lakes may also fluctuate. Lovers of walking among mountains may look for pastures new, if they can afford the prices in alpine countries of Europe. They may enjoy the better public transport, the freedom from litter, the quality of the accommodation elsewhere. These possibilities are less open to day visitors, who may be responsible for many of the capacity problems.

There are dangers in reliance upon the continued growth of the tourism sector. The size of the tourism industry is difficult to measure. Should spending by tourists be lumped in with the spending of locals when it comes to assessing the size of an industry? The World Travel and Tourism Council assessed that travel and tourism accounted for 10.1% of global GDP in 2017, which includes direct spending on accommodation, food, entertainment, and transport, as well as investments by travel and tourism companies, and the spending of workers in the industry. The World Bank rates tourism as smaller than manufacturing and services, but bigger than agriculture. Tourism may or may not be the biggest industry in the world, but its scale means that the number of visitors in itself constitutes a major and growing problem.

Some adjustments to the problem of there being simply too many visitors are possible. Timed admissions can be used for small scale visitor attractions. The National Trust uses this method to regulate queues to visit the home of Beatrix Potter. The Wordsworth Trust are introducing this method to regulate the flow of visitors to Dove Cottage. Visitors arriving early can spend time in the adjacent Wordsworth museum. Managing tourists to stimulate revenue via “exit through the shop” are now commonplace. Timed entry is of course also a form of non-financial rationing. Visitor attractions need admission charges. However, the use of timed admissions avoids a possible dilemma of penalising the less well off, with peak supplements. Interestingly, peak fare supplements for rail travel are regarded as an acceptable method of demand management. Were road pricing to be adopted, it would require the wider application of this. This would be more difficult in a country with no widespread adoption of road tolls. Use of the M6 toll route around the West Midlands conurbation has proved to be less than forecast, even as congestion on existing free motorways worsens.

Demand management without any financial component would be hard to adopt at a broader scale. Government licence fees for the right to walk to the summit of Everest would have to be very high to deal with the problems of crowding on the final ascent. The problem exists at every scale. Lake district footpaths can be too crowded for quiet enjoyment. The Royal Mile in the centre of Edinburgh can be too crowded. Indeed historic city centres the world over are faced with tourist congestion. As with travel problems, a degree of user choice to avoid perceived problems is possible. You can visit Venice in February to enjoy the architecture in peace. Seasoned walkers in the lakes accumulate knowledge of where and when to go to avoid the worst of the crowds. Fifty years ago, tourism in the lakes ceased after autumn half term, and resumed the following Easter. Not any more.

Since then, population has increased, as has tourism, leisure time and discretionary expenditure. The new “normal” is that the expectations of visitors have changed, including acceptance that a lot of other people like the same activities as they themselves like: sightseeing, rambling, cycling etc etc. What has not changed, is that people like their leisure experiences to provide a contrast to their everyday life. For the majority this means city life. The park management plan puts it like this. The park

“provides important opportunities for spiritual refreshment: a release from the pressures of modern day life and a contrast to the noise and bustle experienced elsewhere.”

The “shifting baseline syndrome” is not a justification for inaction. Plans for the park should attempt to enable this contrast to be achieved, or not lost, whilst recognising the scale of the problems created by the size and wealth of the population. The number of tourists wishing to spend time within the park is beyond the control of national park planners. Yes, the national park is for everyone. That does not mean it is for everything.

2.2.1Capacity for additional hotels and other accommodation.

The LDNPA local plan is broadly supportive of new hotel proposals, subject to a number of provisos, of a subjective and possibly contestable nature. A hotel in Grasmere has been granted approval for expansion, while demolishing all the staff accommodation. Within the central lakes there is little scope for major new buildings. The best sites were taken long ago. Hotels set in substantial grounds are best placed for expansion. The case for the upgrading of hotel facilities is easily made, but this is not the same as justifying expansion. A more pressing problem of capacity arises in the case of other types of accommodation: cabins, glamping pods, motor caravan sites. Fixed accommodation is relatively straightforward to regulate, in that the planning system can classify these new, relatively inexpensive, forms in the same way as static caravans. There are specific guidelines for these. More problematic are the shepherds huts on wheels. As these are not permanent structures, they are beyond the scope of most regulations. Moreover, if an unscrupulous developer encounters problems with authorities, he can move his portable holiday accommodation units elsewhere.

The total number of visitors arriving in the park is not something that can or should be controlled. If the tourism market were to continue to satisfy demand for accommodation, the most likely form this would take would be the further expansion of these modern variants to the hotel. A point could come when the environmental impact of pod and cabin developments could have a permanent impact upon the character of the park. Caravan sites lining most attractive lengths of the seaside hint at the kind and scale of the problem. This question needs to be on the agenda of the park authority.

2.2.2 Capacity for “events”.

The attraction of the lake district for competitions and sporting events is long established. Grasmere sports have a long tradition. In recent years there has been a very big growth in one day or longer events. Local authorities compete to attract these. The round Britain cycle touring race will bring income to the hospitality industry. All such events are apt to result in very large numbers of competitors and spectators in a small area. Two consequences are congestion, both from sheer numbers and from road closures. There are procedures to try to ensure that the dates of major events do not clash. Little thought is given to the local disruption caused. Consequential problems include damage at the venue, such as parks becoming a sea of mud, and litter along the route such as uncollected direction signs for competitors. Organisers may be asked to contact parish councils about their plans. Already mountain walking sports events have produced short term chaos in valleys such as Wasdale. There is no mechanism for the local response to be “enough”.

Maybe the time for this will come.

Part 3 Managing change. An agenda for future policies.

Nettles to be grasped!

Institutional change?

How best to introduce “difficult” policies?

3.1 New policies to be sought :

3.1.1 Trials of local road closures on quiet roads up valley.

3.1.2 Expanded parking provision at the major centres.

3.1.3 Selective restrictions on A591 between Windermere and Ambleside

3.2 Existing policies to be retained/enhanced

*Cycleways: still to become a network.

*Strict regulation of proposals for caravan sites, glamping, pods etc

3.3 Existing policies to be abandoned

*Reluctance to use Traffic Regulation Orders

* The “Adventure Capital” of the UK

*The concept of uniform Rural Service Centres.

3.4 Things to be done better: examples.

*Bus/rail/lake steamer timetable integration.

*Advance information as to car park availability.

*Repair of damaged roadside stone walls.

3.5 Lobbying Central Government.

*to legalise a tourist tax

*to further tax second home ownership.

*to restore and increase funding for National Park authorities.


The problems within the park that have been described do indicate where change is needed, but what was not considered has been the question of changes in the future role of the national park. What is at risk of being lost by allowing change? A question first posed by Wordsworth. It has been regarded as a truism that the national park cannot be a museum. After all, some 40000 people live within the park. Not everyone discounts the notion that the park should be a museum. Museums are to display the most precious components of a civilisation’s history. Few now support the Henry Ford view that history was bunk.

One of the reasons why the guides to walks on the fells of the lake district written by Alfred Wainwright remain so popular is that his diagrams include idiosyncratic remarks and jokes by the author. His description of routes up Blencathra notes that his map may become out of date because of the new widening of the A66 which was being undertaken at the time of writing. It provoked him to write a rant against progress. It ended:

Lakeland is unique: it cannot conform to national patterns and modern trends under the guise of improvement without losing its very soul. Let’s leave it as we found it, as a haven of refuge and rest in a world going mad, as a precious museum piece. Where are the men of vision in authority?”

Critics might add that he has hastened one change, the growth in fell walking. His rhetorical question remains unanswered. However, perhaps rather than discounting the idea that the national park is a museum, we should reconsider what a museum means. The term has expanded beyond picture galleries to include wider areas and subjects, as illustrated by the Black Country and Beamish outdoor museums. Perhaps the definition should be wider still, in which the people and businesses of the lake district should be regarded as functioning as everywhere else, but within a museum. This idea is easy to contest, but the need for protection is unabated. Moreover, the changes needed require difficult nettles to be grasped.

Institutional Change

When many things that should be done are not being done, it is tempting to suggest that there is a need to replace the body most responsible with something quite new. For example, the CEO could be replaced by a directly elected commissioner, as there is a police commissioner. This could make the park authority appear to be more responsive to the local population. However, this would not resolve the basic problems of conflicting objectives, of conservation versus progress, however defined. There is no guarantee that the outcome would be better.

However, there are some possible changes that could be helpful. A number of the authority members do not have an immediate and direct interest in the future of LDNPA. County Council members from Carlisle, Workington, or Whitehaven may have, quite legitimately, priorities concerned with problems in their own city/town. High local unemployment level is a more serious problem than fly parking on a rural beauty spot. All members of the LDNPA should have the lake district as their prime concern. There was a proposal under the coalition government to run a pilot in a few national parks under which some members would be directly elected. No developments on this.

Some potential institutional changes could be harmful. Throughout the country there is a mixture of single tier and two tier authorities. Powers within the county of Cumbria are divided between the county council and a number of district councils. Crudely the arguments for single tier control is that it is more efficient, and the public can have a clear understanding as to where to go about a perceived problem or injustice. The argument against is that counties cover huge areas. To go to an office in Carlisle is a major travel undertaking for many residents. A system with more local powers, i.e. District Councils, should be better able to understand local concerns. In 2020, consultations are in progress about a movement towards single tier authorities. One suggestion is for a single tier authority covering Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakes. If Cumbria were to be split into southern and northern single tier authorities, the result might be a National Park Authority having to liaise with two county authorities, not one.

The most acute division of responsibility has been shown to concern transport planning. Within the National Park, the County Council is the highway authority. The history of development control decisions beside the A591 described earlier indicates the lack of joined-up thinking between these two agencies. The National Park itself needs transport expertise. It needs to be the transport planning authority.

How best to introduce “difficult” policies?

As with any innovation, there will be uncertainty about the outcome and whether it will be successful. When the Manchester to Liverpool railway was opened, the promoters were surprised to find that passengers wanted to ride on their freight line. Uncertainty means that a small scale trial is a good way to start. Most innovations need some financial input to get started. This will be easier if it can be shown that the innovation has a clear route to pay for itself. Unfortunately, not every innovation can be tried as a pilot scheme. In these cases, decisive leadership is needed. The current division of responsibilities between county and park does not help.

The big decision that has to be made concerns the management of traffic at busy times on the A591 between Windermere and Ambleside. This does not lend itself to a small scale experiment. Another priority is to try out regulation on a minor road, where some sort of selection between different users is needed. This could provide a small scale demonstration of the techniques needed for managing traffic on the A591. If motorists are to be offered an environmentally acceptable way to reach such valleyheads forming the end of cul-de-sac roads as at Seathwaite or Watendlath, then there must be in place a clear starting point for the transfer from the car. This suggests that 3 policies need to be regarded jointly. So…

3.1. New policies to be sought.

The big nettle to be grasped is the problematic A591 from Windermere to Ambleside. Any regulatory scheme for this would need to have a smaller scale precursor, such as a successful trial of a selective road entry or toll. Any successful pilot scheme up a lakeland valley. would require a good car park to mini-bus interchange.

3.1.1 Trials of local road closures on quiet roads up valleys,

Of necessity, these trials would have to be combined with appropriate exemptions and minibus services from carparks in the nearest major centre. This is a difficult subject, and a task for a transport planning authority. For a trial to be successful, the authority would need to make a number of decisions. To gain local support, diplomacy would be needed. In some respects, this could be easy, as the scheme would need to provide easy access by local people who have a legitimate use of the local route. A system that freed local users from the problems caused by day trippers should be welcomed. Automatic number plate recognition software, given the registration details of locals’ vehicles, could ensure that the barriers to exclude day trippers would rise to allow their uninterrupted passage. However, provision for enterprises needing tourist access must be provided. This could be tricky. Owners of holiday let businesses could feed the system operators with details of their guests’ vehicles. Concurrent with the restriction on general tourist traffic, there would need to be automatic entry for a mini bus service from the nearest major car park, serving any café etc within the scheme valley. Exemptions would also be available for essential services.

The scheme should be flexible, and simply close during quiet periods, and perhaps not come into force until 9.a.m., to allow early starting fell walkers to continue to have the access they enjoy now, subject to the volume of parked cars that can be accommodated without obstructing the access lane or churning the verges into mud. Perhaps temporary entry permits (i.e. particular car number plates) could be issued to guests of hotels peripheral to the scheme.

The system should be as simple as possible. The barriers to entry should be clear. Rising bollards, and car park style rising barriers are now familiar to motorists from cities. A further condition for success would be provision of expanded parking provision in the major centres. This would not be in conflict with existing LDNPA policies, which permit new car parks where they foster transfer to more sustainable modes. It would not be in conflict with the wishes of the local business community.

The question of whether it should be open to motorists to purchase individual entry tickets is altogether more problematic. Suffice to say that if it were so decided, it could make the economics of the scheme look more attractive.

It must be recognised that any such scheme would causes some disbenefits. When the rain descends on a roadside picnic party, the family can quickly scramble back into their car nearby. A minibus service offers no such insurance. What this implies is that the scheme should first be tried only in a few of the most sensitive locations, leaving the existing possibility of the roadside picnic to remain, elsewhere. It also implies that the scheme probably would need a few discreet shelters at pick up and drop off points.

The final hurdle is legal, although the creation of a Traffic Regulation Order is certainly permissible under ground (h):

For the purpose of conserving or enhancing the natural beauty of the area, or of affording better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area, or recreation or the study of nature in the area. This includes conserving its flora, fauna and geological and physiographical features.

LDNPA has yet to make use of this power.

3.1.2 Expanded parking provision at the major centres.

The LDNPA recognises that interchange from car to sustainable public transport makes sense. In effect this means interchange in Keswick, Ambleside or Windermere. For all the justifiable arguments in favour of a green agenda, the political objections to proposals for additional car parks in the major settlements are of less strength that objections to measures that propose limits to universal free access to roadspace for the motorist. However, the practical difficulties could be significant. Aversion to multi-storey parking is something I think that makes these completely unsuitable within a national park.

3.1.3 Selective restrictions on A591 between Windermere and Ambleside.

It has already been concluded that traffic on the A591 is a major problem, between Windermere and Ambleside, with no apparent or even partial remedies available. Only some radical form of regulation will suffice. If a small scale regulation plan can be seen to work, a more ambitious move may become possible: the creation of a selective toll on this stretch of road. Clearly, toll booths of the sort found on the M6toll, and the M25 toll bridge, would be out of the question. Vehicle detection would have to be using ANPR, with drivers entering the stretch of road either with the prepayment for single or multiple journeys, or with a secure method of payment subsequently. The prepayment method would need to be widely accessible at a regional or even national level, as is the case for the M25 tolls. Knowledge of the rate to be charged at different times needs to be easily found, possibly via satnav information. The plan in 2020 for identifying all lorry movements into Kent after Brexit shows how area-wide application of vehicle identification technology is now feasible. The criteria for success are similar to those for the small scale use of information technology: appropriate exemptions, local benefits, and a level of charges that controls the flow, i.e. rations the scarce resource.

3.2 Existing policies to be retained/enhanced

*Cycleways: still to become a network.

*Strict regulation of proposals for caravan sites, glamping, pods etc

3.2.1 Cycleway policies.

There is some consensus as to the desirability of separate routes for cyclists off major roads. Most existing designated cycle routes do not fit into any simple category, with some rough bits and some smoother, mixed together with road use. Users of traditional road bikes or lightweight racers will stick to roads, even the ones with potholes, unless they know of an alternative with a consistent acceptable surface. This creates a dilemma. Yes, off road cycle routes are safer and more enjoyable than passage along heavily trafficked roads. But no, new tarmac urbanises the countryside, and creates new ongoing maintenance tasks.

It is easy to get things wrong. A tarmac strip 4m wide provides no safe area for pedestrians on foot. A tarmac strip, or paving stones, or slate dust, one metre wide, with a 3m width of slate chippings, would give pedestrians a safe area. It would give a smooth surface for cyclists with road bikes, and would be usable by all cyclists, and by wheelchair users if not too steep. Actual volumes of cyclists are quite low, so when cyclists meet, it is a simple matter to divert on to the less smooth chippings. The authority already has different size chippings for footpaths and cycleways on newly created routes.

To get cyclists off the major roads, what is needed is the creation of a network, usable by all types of cyclist, and the natural routes are along the valley floors. The saddest missed opportunity concerns the former railway route between Broughton in Furness and Coniston. This was closed pre-Beeching, and much of the land sold off. The route itself remains visible, including from the A593, which has many steep hills and some single track sections. Near Coniston, Torver and Broughton, isolated stretches of the former railway have been re-used as footpaths. The potential of a through cycle/walkway route remains, but now only at the cost of land acquisition.

The flattest route in the entire lake district is the north to south route west of Thirlmere, built when the Thirlmere reservoir was created. This road, some 5m wide, was engineered to blast its way through rocky outcrops, and is of no traffic importance. It is shown as part of the national cycleway network, but some cyclists are still use the main road on the other side of the reservoir. What lesson should be drawn from this is uncertain, but it does indicate the need for cyclists to be able to gain the perception that there is a network, even if that network remains very partial up to now.

A cycle use survey by GoLakes travel in 2013 reported on cycle use and opinions about improvements. The survey was carried out on the west side of Windermere, Under Loughrigg, and Redbank Road Grasmere. It was found that 86% of users were walkers, of a very broad age range. It is worth stressing that the dominant group remains the walker. The experience of walkers differed, depending on which route people were on. Only 52% of people on Red Bank Road (a narrow road, with significant general traffic including delivery vans) rated cyclists as considerate to some extent. The figure was 91% of those on Windermere West Shore, a path for just walkers and cyclists, i.e. a route with less stress. Users specified ideas for improvements:

in particular a need for better signage and information, a desire for more off road paths, and paths separating walkers and cyclists, as well as practical issues such as the provision of dog bins, litter bins, and benches along routes.

14% made comments about drivers being too fast, or inconsiderate in other ways.

These comments remain relevant.

3.2.2 Policies for caravan sites, glamping, pods, motorhomes etc.

Caravan sites are not new. There exist policies to govern their development. Some recent innovations can be accommodated by simply classifying them as equivalent to caravans, albeit for marketing purposes they are called glamping, or pods. Other innovations are less susceptible to any kind of regulation. The growth of motor homes is also a long established trend, first glamourised by the VW caravanette. The scale is changing. The year 2020 saw a huge increase in wild camping and overnight parking of motor homes. These were discussed as being among of the unsolved problems of leisure. Can the planning system be part of the solution? Wild camping does not lend itself easily to any kind of solution, as much occurs far from civilisation. The only kind of regulation is one that applies close to civilisation. And it is close to settlements that the worse problems of litter, nuisance and pollution occur. If there is to be a remedy it is more likely to be found in nuisance legislation, and conceivably by making wild camping unlawful within a certain distance of a village or authorised campsite. A positive role for the park authority would be to lobby for legislation on this. In 2020, the most visible action has been the placing of large rocks barring entry to informal lay byes, that may indeed have a useful role as passing places on single track roads.

3.3 Existing policies to be abandoned

*Reluctance to use Traffic Regulation Orders

* The “Adventure Capital” of the UK

*The concept of uniform Rural Service Centres.

3.3.1 Reluctance to use Traffic Regulation Orders

LDNPA assert that the use of TROs is a last resort. Why this should be is unclear. Nothing in the local plan provides a basis. True, there is a legal procedure to be followed. True, objectors have the right to oppose such orders. Other national parks have succeeded in obtaining TROs to exclude 4x4s. In 2020 a TRO was obtained by Cumbria Highway Authority closing the minor road down the east side of Coniston Water, following anti social behaviour by large groups. The temporary order was made quickly, and access to Brantwood permitted. An unintended consequence has been that the route is now a delight for cyclists and walkers. There is no obvious reason why the order should not become permanent. The national park local plan shows, diagrammatically on maps, rural “traffic managed areas”. How this worthy objective is to be realised without the use of TROs is not explained.

3.3.2 The “Adventure Capital” of the UK

There is a national trend towards greater participation in sporting events. Charities and entrepreneurs have realised that there is money to be made by organising these. The trend may be healthy, and to some extent it can be accommodated within the park. For example, to close the minor road across the Wrynose and Hardknott passes to allow for cycle rallies, marathons etc is feasible, provided that it is limited to a small number of well publicised dates. In less isolated surroundings, events with hundreds or even thousands of participants can cause unacceptable congestion for locals and other holidaymakers, as well as litter and disturbance to tranquillity. Promotion of the park as the “Adventure capital” of the UK is not among the required duties of the park authority. Protecting tranquillity is. Event organisers are already expected to consult landowners and parish councils, the police, and to get public liability insurance and so on. No impact assessment is needed. An obvious compromise would be to impose such a requirement. There exists no such obvious mechanism for so doing.

3.3.3The concept of uniform Rural Service Centres

The national park has a policy of not permitting development in open country. Not a problem. However, the document goes on to assert (policy CS02) that 50% of new development will be in rural service centres. These are on is list of some 13 larger villages scattered round the national park. They have wildly differing roles, needs and capacities. The major problems of Bootle, Staveley and Grasmere differ according to their location. Grasmere, Hawkshead and Ambleside are subject to intense pressures from tourism, and have very little capacity for development. In other rural service centres the need for jobs, or better public transport may be of more local concern.

Prior to the present local plan, many settlements were shown on local maps to have development boundaries: lines showing where development might take place, and beyond which land was to remain rural or undeveloped. This would give clear guidance to developers. This system has been discarded, on the basis that all applications should be decided on their own merits. The effect is to exacerbate the problems in areas that are already subject to the most extreme pressures.

3.4 Things to be done better

*Bus/rail/lake steamer timetable integration.

*Advance information as to car park availability.

*Repair of damaged roadside stone walls.

Travel abroad may broaden the mind, or it may simply prolong the conversation. However, when one compares how different parts of Europe look after their national parks and the outdoor world, it is easy to see that in many respects the Lake District National Park compares unfavourably. Everyone who cares for the national park will have views on this, and some matters may lie within the scope of influence by the park authority. These are not matters that lie within the powers of the park authority, or indeed any other single authority, but they are matters that affect the public perception of the park.

3.4.1 Bus/rail/lake steamer timetable integration.

One obvious example concerns the lack of transport integration, particularly between rail, bus and boat services. Buses and trains do not connect at Windermere. It is not straightforward matter. All buses and trains serve multiple markets. One morning train from Windermere takes many children to school in Kendal. That train needs to get to Oxenholme in time to deliver passengers to trains to Edinburgh and London, and to be ready to collect passengers arriving at Oxenholme, for the Lake District. The timing of the long distance trains will depend upon constraints far from the Lake District. The problem of poor connections is much reduced if the services are frequent. With a roughly hourly service, such as on the Windermere branch, any service disruption means an hour’s wait. With a half hourly service this is less of a problem. The worst situation for both rail and buses is in the evening. To ensure that the last bus into the central lakes always connects with the last train arriving at Windermere should be feasible. The timetable may allow this, but the frequency of cancelled or delayed trains has not helped.

There exists no all-purpose travel ticket covering bus, rail and lake steamer journeys within the park. The national bus pass for elderly passengers appears to be widely used and appreciated. Not only is it a real benefit for the users, it also speeds up the boarding process. For direct fare payers, the cost of a single bus journey is high. There is a “bus and boat” ticket, but there is scope for expanding the role for a multi-purpose ticket, as is found in the European countries that provide a visitor pass, covering all local travel means, to hotel visitors when they check in for a two or more night’s stay.

3.4.2 Advance information as to car park availability

Availability of parking is a major concern of visitors. Regular ramblers and fell walkers accumulate a memory bank of the odd corners where it is usually free to park for the start of a walk. These spaces are under threat, because their use for overnight parking by camping vans has caused nuisance problems, prompting the ‘big rock’ response. Large stones or tree trunks appear overnight, preventing any recurrence. For the major car parks, the position is a little better. There are a number of providers, each with their own charging regime: LDNPA, the District Councils, the National Trust, the large landowners such as Lowther Estates. Their charges may apply for different time periods. The user must look at the small print to find out when charging becomes free: after 6pm, 7pm, or never. Parking charges will vary according to location, and could vary according to season, so there is little prospect of an all-purpose parking card, anytime soon, and the widening use of credit cards for small purchases may mean there is little future need. Consistency in the methods of displaying charges could help.

Of greater importance is simply the provision of accurate real-time information about parking availability. This is familiar within urban areas, and the available capacity of a multi storey car park is fixed. Within the park, the roadside capacity is also fixed, but less precisely, because of the temptation to park on any convenient verge. At some valley heads, such as Great Langdale, there exist car parks with charges. While general vehicle access remains, it could be useful for a driver to be made aware of the quantity of parking available (and the price) at the head of a valley. This could influence his/her behaviour, and complement other policies to manage minor road congestion.

3.4.3 Repair of damaged roadside stone walls.

The stone field walls of the lake district form part of the essential character of the park. Their repair is the responsibility of the landowner. There are numerous areas where repair of roadside walls, a skilled job, is not happening. Many tasks of countryside management, theoretically the work of county councils, are now being carried out by volunteers or by parish handymen. Village groups bash Himalayan balsam, collect dog-poo bags and litter. Parish handymen clear roadside vegetation, paint benches, clear vegetation around road signs etc etc. Some stone wall repairs have been undertaken by volunteers. Unfortunately the scale of the wall repair problem is far beyond the scope of voluntary or parish goodwill.

3.5 Lobbying Central Government.

*to legalise a tourist tax

*to further tax second home ownership.

*to restore and increase funding for National Park authorities.

Pressure groups attempt to influence national park decisions, but national parks can, and should, act as pressure groups to influence central government decisions. There are many situations where the need arises, but here are three.

3.5.1 Tourism tax.

Tourism imposes costs upon the community, as well as bringing money into the local economy. The costs and benefits are not evenly distributed. There is no practical way of harvesting money brought in from tourism into measures to compensate for some of the problems brought in by the tourists. Moreover, any money coming in could be used to provide benefits for the tourists. The U.K. is unusual among European countries in NOT having a tourist tax. France has had a “Taxe de sejour” for decades, and most other countries have more recently followed suit. Unlike Bhutan, where the tourism tax is $250, the tax, generally raised by the municipality, is quite small, a few euros per person per night. There are several uses of a tourism tax. It could be used to fund tourist information centres, a number which have closed in recent years. The Grasmere tourist office formerly assisted visitors with booking accommodation, as well as providing local information. Since its closure, residents are being asked questions by visitors such as “Where is the lake?”

A possibly important role for a tourism tax in the lakes would be to fund the free provision for hotel guests with a local public transport pass valid for the duration of their visit. This could effect some reduction in car dependence within the park. As this is one of the aspirations of LDNPA, then the authority should attempt to induce government to implement relevant legislation.

3.5.2 Second home ownership.

The influx to the lakes of wealthy second home owners is a problem that has only been briefly touched upon here, as the problem is so intractable, and so little subject to control by the park authority. The discount in council tax for second home owners has now disappeared. There have been suggestions that planning permission should be required before the conversion of a house to a second home. It is a bit late in the day for that.

Is there a better basis for taxing second home owners than “Let’s soak the rich?” It is possible to argue that the loss of local rural facilities is partly attributable to the fall in the number of permanent residents. Remaining local pharmacies, post offices, shops in rural areas are still at risk of closure. Many other facilities, from local garages, police stations and G.P. surgeries have related problems. A tax on the owners of second homes could provide some funding for these rural needs. This fits in with stated LDNPA policies. The authority should press for this.

3.5.3 Funding for National Park authorities.

At a time of increasing use of the national park, coupled with a growing awareness of the importance of nature, and of climate change, the park authority has been subject to a substantial reduction in funding and hence also in staffing. True, every public body can make a case for more resources. However, LDNPA has done little to publicise the extent and impact of the cuts that have been made.

4 Conclusions.

We can only guess about the “unknown unknowns” of the future. However, what is possible is to predict that the numbers of visitors coming to the lake district is almost certainly going to increase, and that this increase is likely to be substantial. If this is accepted, then it is possible to sketch out what could go wrong by allowing some existing trends to continue without regulation. This is what has been explored here, with possible countermeasures indicated. Some of the choices made could be difficult, but it is time now to consider them.