Recently we visited Ulverston to carry out a survey, despite being situated just outside the Lake District National Park boundary there seemed to be an element of excitement amongst the locals we spoke to regarding the Lake Districts new UNESCO World Heritage site status. The Lake District is now the latest addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites situated within the United Kingdom. UNESCO World Heritage status in its simplest form means an area is given designation by the United Nations due to its outstanding universal value. There are now over 1050 of these sites in the world, 31 of which are situated either in the United Kingdom or on British Overseas Territories. Some well-known examples of existing UNESCO World Heritage sites in the United Kingdom include Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Liverpool. The Lake District is the 13th addition to this renowned list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the United Kingdom or on British Overseas Territories since the year 2000 began, the last addition before this was in July 2016 and was Gorham’s cave complex situated in Gibraltar, recognised due to ancient rock engravings that illustrate significant ‘Neanderthal and human evolution’ (UNESCO). The Lake District’s bid to become recognised as a World heritage site was long in formation and was eventually submitted in February 2016. This piece will look at the potential advantages and disadvantages of UNESCO World Heritage Status and will delve into predictions that have been made in terms of the property and development market.
One of the main aims and advantages of becoming recognised as a World Heritage Site is the attention and recognition that is given towards the preservation and conservation of the site, with new barriers to potential development that could impact the environment in the future. As well as this, there is much evidence that outlines how becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site can boost tourism and therefore have an economic impact on the area in question. However, as a result of an increase in tourist influx, the UNESCO World Heritage status has been criticised in the past as it can be considered to be a cause of damage to protected sites through an increase foot fall, this therefore defeats the main objective of UNESCO Heritage sites which is to conserve and protect areas of outstanding universal value. Despite positive emotions about the UNESCO status emulating from the people we spoke to in Ulverston, there are also those who have their doubts whether the new-found status will be positive for the Lake District at all, who echo the previous sceptics regarding the increase in tourism and how this could have a negative impact. Those who feel the UNESCO status will be negative in terms of tourism increase list issues such as; the need for increased development to accommodate for tourists. This could in turn lead to a potential impact of the real estate market, there is a predicted increase in second homes, which is already a recognised issue in the Lake District anyway- effectively, there is a fear that the area could become overrun with tourists.
Despite those who see the new UNESCO status to be negative, there are also those who feel the status will benefit the Lake District, potential benefits are not only linked to the fields of conservation and preservation of the landscape, but also in terms of boosting the local economy through tourism. As well as this, those who feel the Lake District’s housing market will be made increasingly unaffordable for local people, the younger generation in particular, due to the new UNESCO status, may actually be wrong. It is said that local Estate Agency companies have argued that the residential housing market is not likely to be effected. Instead, it is claimed that the only real estate sector that will be directly affected is that of the rental holiday accommodation market, and that is likely to rise due to the increased influx of tourists.
To conclude, as a result of the Lake District’s new UNESCO World Heritage site status, it is likely that the foot fall of tourists will increase within the Lake District National Park and its surrounding areas. This is due to people wanting to visit locations featured on UNESCO’s designated list of areas with outstanding universal value. Therefore, the lake District is likely to become a more sought-after location for purchasing holiday accommodation for rental purposes, however the residential market is predicted to stay fairly consistent with the current level, which is already quite high due to the reputation the Lake District already possesses. So, in effect, areas such as Ulverston are likely to see an increase in tourists and therefore small businesses will potentially see the positive effect of this, therefore this links right back to the positive feeling the locals of Ulverston had as mentioned at the beginning of this piece.