Cumbria Chamber of Commerce says the Lake District can become a ‘destination of choice’ for tech firms and other high-value service businesses looking to move out of London.
These businesses, it argues, would bring high-paid jobs to help reinvigorate local communities.
The Chamber has today made 12 recommendations in its response to a government review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), designed to make them more business-friendly.
Giving National Parks an economic development role and a duty to improve broadband and mobile phone coverage;
Looking at innovative ways to fund transport improvements such as park and ride;
Streamlining the planning process to reduce costs for businesses and make it easier to obtain alternative planning uses for redundant buildings;
Disincentivising second home ownership, perhaps by phasing-in higher council tax rates and using the revenue to fund social housing;
Having a business representative on each national park authority and establishing a National Park Ombudsman.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses operating in National Parks and AONBs face particular challenges.
“These include a tough planning regime, transport issues such as a lack of parking and inadequate public transport, patchy broadband and mobile phone coverage, and recruitment difficulties aggravated by a lack of affordable housing.
“Our response aims to address these issues in a responsible way that protects the natural environment.”
The Chamber consulted widely to shape its response. More than 60 businesses, all operating in Cumbria’s two national parks and three AONBs, completed a Chamber survey or attended a workshop at the Low Wood Bay, Windermere.
Rob added: “Currently, much of the employment within National Parks and AONBs is relatively low-paid work in hospitality, retail, and agriculture and forestry.
“That can change. Because these areas are such attractive places to live and work, they could become a destination of choice for high-value tech and service businesses looking to leave London and other large cities to reduce their costs.
“Technology allows these businesses to operate from any location that has good digital and transport connectivity.
“They would create higher-paid employment to reinvigorate rural communities that have become dominated by second homes and wealthy incoming retirees.
“That way National Parks and AONBs can be living, sustainable, entities rather than rural theme parks.”
To read the Chamber’s response in full, click here.