The Living World
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Lake District Case Study: Management Strategies

The Lake District is a major tourist attraction in the UK, visited by more than 16 million tourists every year. This is due to its natural beauty, lakes, hills and activities. These tourists bring many benefits as well as disadvantages to the area, as businesses attempt to capitalise on the naturally formed landscape.


Social Impacts

  • The area’s improved public transport networks make it easier for both locals and tourists to explore the natural landscapes of the region.
  • However, the high number of tourists can cause traffic jams and overcrowding at popular spots. This is a hassle for both visitors and locals.
  • 20% of property in the Lake District is either second homes or holiday let properties. Some of these are owned by residents, who enjoy a healthy income from this. However, many others have problems with it and feel it impacts residents negatively.
  • Many second homeowners and holiday cottage owners don’t live there all year, negatively impacting the community aspect of the area.
  • Higher property values force locals to move out to areas such as Kendal or Penrith, which further deteriorates the community aspect of the Lake District.

Economic Impacts

  • Tourism plays a vital role in the local economy, with 15,000 of the 41,000 people living in the Lake District working in the tourist trade. The trade brings approximately £1.1bn to the local economy.
  • Holiday cottages and flats are not occupied all year round, which leads to a dip in population during off-peak seasons in the Lake District, such as winter. This leads to a serious loss of income for local businesses.
  • The Lake District is becoming a popular area and property prices are increasing, with the average property value near Lake Windermere sitting at £519,013, an increase of 11% since 2019.
  • Some jobs, such as those in activities, temporary retail and hospitality, are in less demand during the winter. This creates job insecurity and threatens individual income.

Environmental Impacts

  • Approximately 90% of the 16m tourists that visit every year arrive by car and many of the roads are narrow so traffic jams can be common. This contributes to air pollution.
  • Popular hills, such as Cat Bells (one of the easiest climbs), experience more hikers, which leads to quite serious erosion from footfall.
  • The large volume of tourists can lead to increased littering, which harms local ecosystems.
  • Water sports on Lake Windermere create excessive amounts of wash from powerboats and speed boats. The wash erodes the shore at a greater rate than normal.

Management Strategies

Local government works with the Lake District National Park and Cumbria Tourism to implement strategies to help combat some of the more negative aspects of tourism in the area.

Traffic Management

One of the key aims of recent transport initiatives is to get people out of their cars. This is to bring down traffic jams and reduce pollution.

The Lake District National Park promotes the use of trains to access the Lake District, which can be accessed on the West Coast mainline, connecting to London and Glasgow. The National Park also provides coaches and minibus tours within the Lake District that visit popular sites such as Hawkshead, Grizedale, and Tarn Hows. Meanwhile, hiking and cycling are promoted as a healthy and proactive way to visit the Lake District without harming the environment.

Additionally, strategies have been put in place to alleviate the pressure on small roads, which were not intended to cope with the high amount of traffic they receive. Dual carriageways such as the A591 have been constructed to move traffic in and out efficiently and quickly. Heavy goods vehicles take less popular and less touristy routes where possible, to avoid clogging up scenic routes and causing further traffic problems.

Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

In 2008 the ‘Low Carbon Lake District’ initiative was launched, working with businesses and communities to reduce emissions. The initiative works with the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership, with the aim of achieving zero carbon emissions in Cumbria by 2037. Businesses are supported in working in more sustainable ways to reduce emissions. The Lake District managed to reduce emissions by 25% within four years through the work of the initiative.

Bins are now featured more prominently by major attractions in the area. This, combined with a rollout of more anti-littering signs and education on the impact we have on our environment, has helped to reduce littering.

Speed limits for boats are enforced in most areas of the Lake District; for example, Lake Windermere implemented a 10 mph limit in 2005. This is to prevent the wash from eroding the banks of the lakes. However, the speed limit in most areas is now 10 knots (11.5mph).

Conservation and Protection

In 2001, Fix the Fells was created by a partnership of the National Trust, Natural England, Lake District National Park, Cumbria County Council and other important bodies. The organisation was created to secure funding to help repair and prevent damage from footfall on the hills. It relies on donations but also receives significant funding from individual and large corporate donors, including the National Lottery.

There are areas designated as protected areas within the Lake District. The government restricts development in areas of natural beauty or environmental significance, designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This is to safeguard fragile ecosystems and unique habitats.

The Lake District received international recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. As a result, the Lake District National Park Partnership is under increasing pressure to ensure that the natural environment is sustained and protected from developers.

Footpaths are carefully maintained, not only for aesthetic reasons but also for safety and environmental conservation. Regular assessments ensure that the paths are safe for the high volume of visitors. This minimises the risk of accidents due to uneven surfaces, erosion or other hazards. Environmentally, well-maintained paths help to concentrate foot traffic in designated areas, reducing the spread of erosion and protecting surrounding vegetation and wildlife habitats.