University of Cumbria – World leading research centre to be created in National Park

Plans by the University of Cumbria to develop the Ambleside campus as a major research centre and hub for the exchange of information begin this month with the opening of the Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA).

As the only university in the country to have a base in a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site it’s ideally placed to be the ‘go-to’ location for vision, expertise and insight into sustainable development within thriving visitor economies.

“This is particularly important in relation to the recent designation of World Heritage Status,” Centre director Prof Ian Convery said. “We will need to find the balance between the economic benefits of increased tourism – bearing in mind that the park already has 18 million visitors per year – as well as promoting the culture and heritage that drew the recognition.”

The launch event – on September 11 – has attracted a wide range of internationally known experts.

Among those appearing will be Prof Michael Soule of the University of California. An expert on learning from nature within national parks he’ll discuss unconventional approaches to saving nature, sometimes called ‘guerrilla conservation.’

World heritage advisor Susan Denyer of the International Council on Monuments and Sites will also join Erwin van Maanen of the Rewilding Foundation based in the Netherlands and Owen Nevin from CQ University in Australia.

As well as offering an eclectic range of speakers, the aim of the conference is to shape how the centre itself will develop; an open plenary session to suggest areas it should consider to ensure its’ relevance and application will form part of the event.

“Building on the network of 25 organisations that the Lake District National Park Authority brought together to collaborate on the World Heritage Bid we will continue to establish further national and international alliances,” Dr Elspeth Lees, head of department science, natural resources and outdoor studies at the University of Cumbria, said. “With our established links across the globe we’re able to call on experts to undertake applied research to inform practice and develop policy.”

Centre director Professor Ian Convery is a member of the World Conservation Union Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN WCPA), the world’s premier network of protected area expertise, with over 2,400 members, spanning 140 countries. This membership will enable the centre to call on valuable research already complete which may also spark fresh studies based in Cumbria. ”This gives us access to knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together,” Prof Convery said.

For those unable to attend, a ‘digital hub’ to act as a resource accessible to all with a professional interest in the welfare of these special areas and the people who live within them is already under construction. It’s envisaged this will develop as research is completed.

“The significance of World Heritage Status is a key driver for the university’s strategy, reputation and standing,” University of Cumbria Pro Vice Chancellor Sandra Booth said. “As we develop our plans to capitalise on place, partnerships and portfolio in order to boost our world class higher education and research offer, the new Centre has the potential to become the ‘go-to’ place for vision, expertise and insight into sustainable development within thriving visitor economies.”