THE Lake District moved a significant step closer to being granted UNESCO World Heritage status this week.

The national park was chosen by the government as the United Kingdom’s sole nomination for the selection process in 2016.

The Lake District World Heritage site steering group now needs to prepare a case, which will undergo scrutiny by UNESCO.

There is no guarantee the Lake District will gain the status, but what would it mean if it did?

It is worth noting that becoming such a site does not result in any new funding from UNESCO or anyone else.

The primary purpose is to ‘conserve the globally important natural or cultural heritage of the destination’. That might seem a bit woolly and it appears, basically, the potential advantages of gaining World Heritage status are pretty much down to what areas make of it.

There is evidence status can be an effective catalyst for more effective conservation, civic pride, partnership working and it might help to unlock funding and investment.

Certainly the prestige of being a World Heritage site is likely to make an area more attractive to tourists.

All this sounds positive but fears have been expressed by some business leaders and farmers that the status might lead to more levels of bureaucracy, that could stifle development.

There might also be concerns about whether the area can support yet more visitors.

Those behind the bid say no new planning controls are envisaged - and as planning rules are already very strict there seems no need for any fresh ones.

And visitors are going to come to the Lakes anyway - it is down to local authorities to find effective ways of managing them.

Those of us who live here know the Lake District is special - World Heritage status could well spread that message to a bigger audience, which could bring economic benefits.

As long as extra rules and regulations are not imposed at some later date, this week’s news should be welcomed.