​The Lake District - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

 

  • The LDNPA formally committed itself to the protection and conservation of the World Heritage Site.

  • It has been told by the World Heritage Centre that the character and tranquillity of the landscape for which World Heritage Status was granted – attributes of Outstanding Universal Value - are now at risk.

  • The LDNPA as the body entrusted with the stewardship of this “jewel in the crown of National Parks” has a duty implement the recommendations of the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS.

In 2017 the Lake District was awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, in recognition of the Lake District’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). This has three main aspects:

 

  • The harmonious beauty of the landscape

 

  • The tradition of agro-pastoralism, in particular sheep farming

 

  • The birth of the conservation movement

 

Read the detailed description by UNESCO here and the bid documents prepared by the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) here.

 

In its bid documents the LDNPA stresses the characteristics that make up the Lake District’s OUV over and over again. Here are two examples:

 

'Tranquillity of the fells, valleys and lakes gives a sense of space and freedom. They provide opportunities for spiritual refreshment – a release from the pressures of modern day life.

There is a feeling of wilderness, offering personal challenges for some and impressive open views for everyone.'  (Nomination Document 2a: Description of the English Lake District, p. 84)

 

And the LDNPA makes the following commitment, as the State Party:

 

“Each State Party to the Convention recognizes that the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation, and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage belongs primarily to that State." (Nomination Document 5.0: Protection and Management of the Property, p. 615)

 

The State of Conservation

The World Heritage Centre is the UNESCO body that reports on the state of conservation in its World Heritage sites. For mixed sites (both cultural and natural) this is done jointly with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

 

In 2018 a group of Lake District residents wrote to the World Heritage Centre to point out how leisure motoring on the two tracks near Little Langdale diminishes the Lake District’s OUV. As a result, the World Heritage Centre issued two reports, evaluating the damage done by this traffic on fell tracks. These reports were produced by ICOMOS (in UNESCO terminology they are 'Technical Reviews').

The World Heritage Centre sent the first of these reports to the LDNPA in May 2019, the second in October 2019.

It is worth reading both the May report and the October report in full, but here are the main conclusions:

ICOMOS Technical Review May 2019

"The starting point has to be the attributes of OUV, how these are manifest in the landscape across which the 4x4 vehicles are travelling, and how these are adversely impacted. As set out in the property’s nomination dossier, the impacted landscapes are remarkably intact in terms of reflecting their use and evolution over time through their landscape features and their current use, the way cultural aspects contribute to their aesthetic qualities, and their strong associations with the conservation movement. All of these qualities are being adversely impacted and are precisely those that need to be demonstrated to justify the introduction of a TRO.

 

The idea that impact can be measured quantitatively in terms of the percentage of roads impacted is not realistic in relation to assessing impact on OUV.

ICOMOS advises that the State Party consider the banning of the use of 4x4 vehicles on green roads within the World Heritage property. It is understood that there is already a tool in place in the form of a TRO that is precisely tailored to this need.

It is therefore advised that the State Party:

1. Introduce Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) on green roads in the property;

2. Avoid linking the sustainability of farms with income from 4x4 vehicle activities;

3. Set out a clearer and more detailed articulation of physical attributes of Outstanding Universal Value in future Heritage Impact Assessments and base these on a more integrated landscape approach;

4. Strengthen the interaction between the recreational community and local communities of farmers, residents and NGOs."

ICOMOS Technical Review October 2019

"In ICOMOS’s view the issue is that the increase in 4x4 traffic on these two green roads is having an adverse impact on what the World Heritage property and on what the National Park are trying to sustain. Tools are needed to deal with this impact.

Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) that since 2006 have been available to National Parks to remove the right to use mortised vehicles on certain ‘green’ roads appear to be an appropriate tool from the details set out in the report.

The issue is not limited to the physicality of the roads and whether and how vehicles are eroding the roads. The issue is wider than that: it revolves around how 4x4 road use impacts on the character and tranquillity of the landscape.

From the detailed interrogation in the report on the ways that TROs might be used, it appears that sections d, e, and h are relevant particularly as ‘natural beauty’ can be seen to encompass cultural heritage and associations.

ICOMOS considers that action is needed to eliminate the use of 4x4s on these routes. Of course this will require detailed consultation with stakeholders, but it suggests that principles need to be established within which implementation can be worked out. These principles already seem to exist as reflected in the various examples noted above where intervention has achieved control of 4x4s in other parts of the property to restore tranquillity (and from other examples where motorboats have been banned from certain lakes in the interests of tranquillity)."

Conclusions

  • The LDNPA formally committed itself to the protection and conservation of the World Heritage Site.

  • It has been told by the World Heritage Centre that the character and tranquillity of the landscape for which World Heritage Status was granted – attributes of Outstanding Universal Value - are now at risk.

  • The LDNPA as the body entrusted with the stewardship of this “jewel in the crown of National Parks” must implement the recommendations of the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS.

National Parks are the lungs of the nation.

contact: highoxenfell@gmail.com