The Lake District is under threat

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The largest national park in England, the Lake District, is coming under threat from proposed developments that include dumping nuclear waste in isolated areas of the Lakes and establishing electricity pylons through the district. With a lovely green space virtually on our doorstep about to be ruined, I couldn’t just sit back when I read about it. At this rate, developers will destroy any green space that this country has left until we are left with cities, cities, and yet more cities.

The debate, particularly concerning nuclear waste, has already provoked angry responses, with some arguing that the Lakes need these developments to boost economic growth, and others arguing that the beauty of the Lakes needs to be preserved. Richard Greenwood, the Cumbria tourist board’s development and policy director, said that respecting the landscape did not mean that ‘the area need to be preserved in aspic, especially if we want people to continue to come well into the future.’ Forgive me if I’m wrong, but surely burying nuclear waste in the Lakes will not respect the landscape. It’s bad enough having the Sellafield nuclear complex situated near the district already without contaminating the Lakes with its waste as well. Even if the proposed dumping will only take place in isolated areas, there will surely come a time when there is no room left in those areas for nuclear waste and then Sellafield will want to dump more waste elsewhere in the Lake. It cannot be allowed. The Lake District is a fantastic area full of beautiful landscapes and rich with literary history; nuclear waste should stay as far away from it as possible.

If you think nuclear waste is bad, then the other proposal will be even more of an eyesore. Electricity pylons are planned to link a new plant at the Sellafield complex to the national grid, and could potentially cut right through the district. Talk about ruining the landscape – the pylons would be a constant reminder to the 15 million annual visitors of the continued usage of fuels, both non-renewable and nuclear, that contribute to the destruction of our planet. Conservationists want the pylons to be buried underground, and although this for me would still disrupt the landscape, it would certainly be the lesser of two evils.

What has made these proposals so tricky for the Cumbria tourist board and conservationists is the local economy. West Cumbria is isolated and life is economically tough. In one area of Whitehaven, half of all children were living in poverty in 2011. It’s true that Sellafield provides over 9000 jobs for the locals, and that it is the main business that invests in the local area. Encouraging the development of the complex would continue to aid the local area. But at what cost? Surely it would be better to encourage other businesses to invest in the area rather than destroying the environment to support the local economy. With the average nuclear power plant only lasting for 40 years or so, Sellafield isn’t securing the local economy for an indefinite period. Doing more to attract visitors to the Lakes instead of destroying them would surely benefit the economy for a longer period of time.

Then there’s the literary history of the Lakes to consider. As an English Literature student, for me cutting up the landscape would simultaneously destroy one of the richest literary cultures in the world. The Lakes inspired a number of renowned poets, including Coleridge, Thomas Gray, and of course, Wordsworth. Without the Lakes, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ would just be a strange phrase to us, and we certainly wouldn’t have grown up with Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. We simply can’t let nuclear waste and electricity pylons ruin the Lake District and all that the national park brings with it. Although I understand the need to boost the local economy, the thought of dumping nuclear waste in a place that helped to produce some of the most loved literature that England has to offer touches a nerve. We need to preserve the landscape as it is, instead of ruining it with nuclear waste and electricity pylons.

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