Business confidence in South Lakeland returns to pre-pandemic levels

Last Updated: 18 March 2022

18 March 2022

Confidence levels among South Lakeland businesses are now back to what they were before the coronavirus pandemic, a wide-ranging survey has found.

More than three quarters of respondents (79 per cent) felt very or fairly confident about the next 12 months – an increase of 25 per cent from the 2020 survey,

Over half of all responding businesses feel fairly confident about the next 12 months, while one in five are very confident.

The survey was carried out by the Economy and Culture team at South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) between October last year and February this year, with business owners invited to give their views to help shape the council's economic support strategies and inform its plans and policies.

Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Portfolio Holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure, said: "These findings show once again the strength of our economy and how all businesses here, from the established and internationally significant to small start-ups finding their way, contribute to making South Lakeland the best place to live, work and play.

“The information gathered continues to be vital in informing our continuing work supporting businesses and doing all we possibly can to create the necessary conditions for them to thrive.”

The survey is undertaken annually to provide an up-to-date local assessment of business needs over the next 12 months – but takes on even more importance than usual as SLDC aims to support economic recovery in the aftermath of the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

It provides an up-to-date assessment of the supply and demand of business premises in South Lakeland, helps to inform the South Lakeland local planning authorities evidence base about employment needs and is also used to better understand the opportunities and challenges faced by businesses operating in South Lakeland.

Other findings include:

  • Almost three quarters of respondents expect the number of people employed at their premises to stay the same over the next year. One in six businesses expect their employee numbers to slightly increase, while there are 11 businesses that expect their numbers to increase significantly.
  • Of the 1,119 responding businesses, 19 per cent (208 businesses) indicated that they would expect their premises needs to change in the next three years. The majority expect to increase in size by means of expanding their existing premises or moving to a larger site.
  • A quarter of businesses identify staff retention and recruitment as obstacles which prevent their business growing.

The response rate was 28 per cent (1,119 responses), which is the second highest rate since the survey began in 2014


South Lakeland District Council funding supports Cumbria Chamber of Commerce's Growth Hub in providing advice and support to new and existing firms.

Cumbria Business Growth Hub supports businesses of any sector at any stage, from those thinking about setting up a business, in the early years of trading or established businesses, through: expert 1-2-1 advice, free workshops to expand knowledge and skills, access to funding for specialist consultancy support as well as other further support.

More information can be found by calling 0844 257 8450, emailing or visiting the website at

Through its Council Plan priorities, SLDC is looking to address many of the challenges for the local economy highlighted and accelerated by the pandemic, including:

  • The need to attract, recruit, develop and retain more people with higher level skills and attract young people to halt the decline in the working age population, working with education and training providers to offer broader career and training opportunities and upskill the local workforce.
  • A lack of affordable and available housing makes it difficult for families and young professionals to live in the district. As well as the second homes issue, a reduction has been noted in the availability of rental accommodation as landlords look to take advantage of the ‘staycation’ boom and turn their properties into holiday lets.
  • South Lakeland has seen an increase in town centre vacancy rates from nine per cent to 11 per cent since the pandemic. The council is encouraging consideration of different uses to ensure the vibrancy of our town centres as national retailers continue to reduce their presence on our high streets, repurposing town centres to include more experiential uses and living accommodation – putting them at the heart of the community.
  • Harness the natural environment, landscape and local skills so South Lakeland becomes a leader in the clean energy sector and green economy.
  • Embrace technology and digital connectivity to grow South Lakeland’s economy.
  • Build on South Lakeland’s first-class cultural offer for residents and visitors – the creative industries are the fastest growing sector in the UK.
  • Growing domestic and year-round tourism in the district – supporting Cumbria Tourism’s ‘attract and disperse’ and ‘Perfect place to be’ strategies.

Economy and Culture – Key Priorities

Strategic Projects and Partnerships

Investment in strategic priorities in the Council Plan, including: Kendal Vision, GSK site in Ulverston, Cross-a-Moor Roundabout, Windermere Gateway and Grange Lido scheme.

Our Places

Working with private and public sector partners: Ulverston Town Team (Borderlands), Kendal Futures, Bowness and Windermere Forward, Sedbergh Economic Partnership, Milnthorpe Matters, Morecambe Bay Partnership to reimagine our town and village centres.

Creative Spaces

Repurposing underused space for businesses of the future, including: MintWorks and MintWorks 2, indoor and outdoor markets, ‘pop-up’ initiatives.

Business Environment

Providing the right support network and conditions for enterprise partnerships, including: Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, Cumbria Tourism, Cumbria Action for Sustainability, Future Fixers and Green Small Businesses.