A SERIES of drop-in events to discuss a proposal to extend the southern boundary of the Lake District National Park was attended by nearly 300 people.

The Friends of the Lake District submitted a formal request to Natural England in June to extend the park to incorporate an area of outstanding landscape in the south of Cumbria. It includes the area between Silecroft and Grange-over-Sands, the Millom Without, Furness and Cartmel peninsulas and the estuaries of the Duddon, Leven and Kent rivers.

The "community conversation" drop-in sessions were organised by the Southern Boundary Partnership (SBP) - a community led group of parish councillors, allowing the public the opportunity to discover more about the proposal and to have their questions answered.

Mapping illustrating the proposed route of the new southern boundary dominated much of the conversation and prompted many of the questions at the community events.

Douglas Chalmers, Chief Executive, Friends of the Lake District, said: “Our research and submission has been based on the landscape quality. Although we believe that these amazing landscapes should be incorporated into the park, I have to stress that a large part of our research is independent and all of it is to the highest standard.”

David Savage, of the Southern Boundary Partnership (SBP), said: “We have been pleased that so many people came along to our ‘community conversations’, where residents took the opportunity to express their views both in support of the proposal and the impacts that designation may bring to our communities.

“Any proposal of this scale, altering boundaries and impacting on so many people needs the support of our residents and our businesses and their confidence that we are pursuing this proposal on their behalf.

“Our ‘community conversation’ events have been just that; conversations. We’ve had discussion on the proposed boundary, on planning, tourism, transport, farming and housing policy. It is vital that we are there to listen and represent people at every stage of a process that is likely to be measured in years and not months“.

Natural England has now responded to the proposal in a letter to Friends of the Lake District. It has indicated that it is currently aware of 18 requests for AONB or National Park designations or variations. A bigger factor in the speed of its decision making will be the imminent publication of the Glover Review findings on the future of designated landscapes. This is likely to shape Natural England’s future designation work, its decision making, future priorities and ultimately its designation priorities.

The final decision for any extension to the southern boundary of the Lake District will rest with Natural England and the Secretary of State for the Environment and the process could be a protracted one.