Planning inspectors have opened a make or break two-week public examination of the Lake District National Park Authority’s local plan.

Government-appointed officials Mrs Sarah Housden and Ms Kelly Ford will run the rule over the high-level document which has been three years in the making.

The public hearings got underway at the park’s Murley Moss headquarters on Tuesday watched by park chief executive Richard Leafe and various officials and representatives.

The 156-page plan sets out future housing and employment sites across the national park. It will be used to decide planning applications and guide development over the next decade and beyond.

It includes potential housing sites for Windermere, Bowness, Backbarrow, Bassenthwaite Coniston, Staveley, Kendal Fell Quarry, Glenridding, Pooley Bridge, Askham, Keswick, Bootle, Gosforth, and Silecroft, among others.

Hannah Latty, team leader of strategy and planning policy for the LDNPA, said the plan was ‘balanced’ and proposed ‘appropriate growth’ while conserving the landscape.

It had been drawn up following extensive consultation with stakeholders, including thousands of residents, local groups, businesses, and organisations, she said.

Ms Latty said: “The Lake District National Park faces a number of challenges including the need to conserve and enhance the landscape, natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

"We need a housing market that works for the good and resilience of its communities, a prosperous economy that is able to flourish and provide quality employment, and of course, meeting the challenge of climate change.”

Among those attending the opening were Staveley entrepreneur David Brockbank and national park development control committee chairman Geoff Davies. John Copeslake, a senior town planner representing the Lake District Consortium of around 20 businesses, also attended.

Inspector Mrs Housden told the audience said: “The starting point of the examination is that the authority has submitted a document that it considers sound. It is not our role to consider individual objections to the plan or representations, but to take a rounded view on its soundness.”

“There are three possible outcomes of the examination – the submitted plan is found sound with no modifications necessary, the plan is not sound but could be made so by changes, or the plan is not sound and could not be made so by changes.”

The sessions take place for three days this week and next, with two days held over in reserve in case the timetable overruns.

The inspectors will produce a report of conclusions and recommendations expected in the New Year.