The Lake District Confirmed a UNESCO World Heritage Site

After 31 years of trying, the Lake District was yesterday officially awarded World Heritage Site status by a UNESCO committee, in a decision described by advocates of the bid as ‘momentous.’

The committee met in Krakow, Poland to discuss 32 bids, plus that of the Lake District, with the decision finally taken that after two years of campaigning by the Lake District National Park Partnership with support from a wider group of organisations, that World Heritage status would be granted to the idyllic region.

The bid for World Heritage status has been somewhat polarising, both in the Cumbrian region and across the UK, with Guardian columnist George Monbiot going as far as saying the award is a ‘betrayal of the living world,’ and a ‘blatant assault on nature (that) turns the area into a Beatrix Potter-themed museum.’

However those who have backed the bid and fought for the status since the original failed bids in 1986 and 1989 view the status as inherently positive for the region, as a catalyst for growing the value of tourism to the area.

The managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, Nigel Wilkinson, is hopeful that the Unesco status can raise the profile of the Lake District on an international level, saying: ‘What we really hope is it will act as an economic driver and will grow the value, not the volume, of tourism by giving people more reasons to make day visits and sustained visits.’

The Lakes attracts about 18 million people a year, providing 18,000 jobs and £1.2bn to the region. The bid for World Heritage status was considered essential in increasing not the number of tourists, but the amount of time they stay and the money they spend while visiting. Lord Clark of Windermere, chairman of the Lake District National Park Partnership, noted that ‘a great many people have come together to make this happen.’

He added: ‘we believe the decision will have long and lasting benefits for the spectacular Lake District landscape, the visitors we welcome every year and for the people who call the National Park their home.’

Whatever your thoughts are on the bid and the award, those who supported and campaigned for the bid are confident that World Heritage Site status ‘will provide the opportunity to celebrate and protect the natural environment that forms an integral part of the cultural landscape of the Lake District.’