OPINION: World Heritage status is great news for South Lakeland
THIS past week we heard the excellent news that the Lake District has achieved World Heritage status. Hopefully, like me, you are delighted and I extend my congratulations to CEO Richard Leafe and his colleagues at the Lake District National Park Authority for their terrific hard work in achieving this status.
This is good news not only because it confirms the uniqueness of the area and its importance as a national treasure, but also because of the potential economic benefit that it brings. There are not many world heritage sites in Britain, and the relative rarity of its status will attract new visitors to Cumbria.
This should be a further boost to an already vibrant tourist sector. For us in South Lakeland, tourism is a vital part of our economic activity. Cumbria Tourism estimates that locally we get £1.2bn of revenue and that across Cumbria the industry supports the equivalent of 36,000 full time jobs.
Moreover these numbers are increasing. Last year tourist numbers in Cumbria rose five per cent. It is surely not unreasonable to forecast that this growth rate is likely to increase significantly now that the Lake District has achieved World Heritage status.
So great news for the hospitality and tourist sector of our economy. Hopefully this increase in visitors will also help our high street shops.
One possible cloud on the horizon is a future shortage of workers in the hospitality sector. I have spoken to employers in the sector, as well as to business representatives, and all express this concern. The tourist sector in Cumbria relies on EU migrant workers. Indeed, the latest newsletter from Cumbria Tourism makes this point and cites the industry's unease over the current hiring uncertainties post Brexit.
In South Lakeland we already have very low unemployment. Our population has been stable over the past 10 years (at about 104,000) and unless we achieve strong economic growth it could remain static in the future. However, the population is ageing.
So one of my jobs is to work with businesses and other employers to encourage workers from elsewhere to come to South Lakeland. If we are not successful, we may find the services we currently enjoy are just not available, and our economic growth will not meet the potential offered by the Lake District's good news.
And by the way, if you have any friends outside Cumbria who might be interested in a job – tell them to come on over...
Giles Archibald, leader of South Lakeland District Council