I WRITE in response to the report about the idea of a 'tourist tax' Gazette, September 20, 'Tourist tax for Lakes?').

This idea cropped up at a meeting of local residents and councillors in Langdale earlier this year and the suggestion (made by a local resident) was supported by the majority there.

Tourist taxes are commonplace in Europe and no European visitor would baulk at paying it.

I have connections to Slovenia – a country that levies a tourist tax on overnight accommodation. In addition, if you drive into certain valleys there is an 'admission fee' of up to €7. This is collected and spent locally and means visitors 'make a significant contribution to the preservation and nature-friendly development' of the valley.

It hasn’t stopped Slovenia becoming more popular as a tourist destination but it has meant that local communities have the funds to maintain adequate parking and other facilities for visitors.

Our local infrastructure wasn’t designed to cope with 47 million visitors a year, never mind increasing numbers in the future.

We need investment to prevent this beautiful area being spoiled and the money has to come from somewhere.

Councils do what they can with the funds they have but it isn’t enough. Organisations like National Trust and Fix the Fells do great work to counter the adverse effects of mass tourism on the landscape, but they depend on donations and volunteers and don’t have sufficient resources to do all that’s needed either.

It seems fair to me that those who create the problems of congestion, parking, environmental degradation, erosion and litter should make a financial contribution towards tackling these issues.

Calling it a 'tourist tax' doesn’t help the cause. It could be a 'tourism development levy', an 'environment charge' or even a 'national park fee'. The one thing I would not want is for it to be a UK government tax that ends up in Treasury coffers.

It needs to be locally collected and locally spent so residents and visitors alike can see the tangible benefits.

An extra £1 per night is nothing in terms of the overall cost of a holiday here but an extra £22 million per annum would make a significant difference to what local councils and organisations could do to help 'conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage' of the area which, by the way, is the primary statutory purpose of a national park – but that’s a topic in its own right.

H. Wilkinson