The surroundings in which people live have both direct and indirect impacts on their wellbeing. The environment covers a myriad of issues and this short overview highlights a number including physical location, land-use, dereliction, emissions, recycling, deprivation and housing, of which some are problem areas for the county.

Covering 3,075 sq km and with a large resident population, the Lancashire-14 area is one of the most populous and urbanised localities in Britain, but still manages to be an area of astonishing diversity. There is much to be admired in the traditional townscapes, the multitude of stone-built dwellings and mills, handsome civic architecture and the relics of early industrialisation in which the region led the world. There are attractive stretches and beaches too along its 77-mile (123-km) coastline and the rural villages and unspoilt landscapes of Lancashire are particularly fine.

The Lancashire landscape is diverse in both physical appearance and function. Great natural physical diversity from coast and estuary landscapes to uplands with extensive areas of beautiful countryside and moorland. The county incorporates parts of two designated areas of outstanding natural beauty (Forest of Bowland and Arnside/Silverdale). 

Designated green belts intended as "permanent" restraints to development to check unrestricted urban sprawl, to assist in safeguarding the countryside from urban encroachment and to prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another cover over 79,000 hectares or a quarter of the county's total land area (13% for England as a whole).

Problems of derelict and degraded land are being tackled via a range of initiatives and can present opportunities for new sites for wildlife and recreation.

The rural and urban categorisation article allocates each census output area in the county into either two types of urban or four rural classifications. Lancashire residents on the whole have easy access to the coast or countryside, but within the core urban areas of many towns it is a different story. Many are still blighted by the legacy of an earlier industrial era and there are some serious pockets of deprivation.

Air quality

The air quality and monitoring of air quality and health impacts articles give an overview of local results, monitoring stations, air quality management areas, and measuring the impacts on human health and the natural environment.

In general, good air quality is recorded along the county's coast and rural areas, whilst higher results are seen in urban localities away from the coast.  

Climate change is a vital issue and in Lancashire like elsewhere, emissions such as carbon dioxide are influenced by a range of factors including road transport and heavy industrial users of energy. 

Bathing water quality

The bathing water quality articles have over the years recorded a general improvements at various Lancashire beaches. Blackpool South beach in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 was the first beach in the North West to achieve the prestigious Blue Flag award.    

River water quality

The River Water Quality article provides a rudimentary interactive map that shows compliance of water bodies in Lancashire with the Water Framework Directive. When the 2019 report was published we extended the range of years back to 2009. Because of very stringent standards for a couple of chemical pollutants, all of the river segments and reservoirs fail overall in 2019, although for many other indicators they generally pass or achieve good standards. The separate levels of compliance with the chemical and ecological standards can be viewed.

Biodiversity and land

The Biodiversity, leisure and land ownership article highlights a range of national and local organisations with an interest in the Lancashire environment. It also mentions some of the major local landowners, and various recreational sites across Lancashire.  

Household waste

One area of success linked to improving the environment has been in tackling household waste. Lancashire has within a generation undergone a step change in how it deals with household waste and the amount either recycled or composted has risen dramatically from a miserly 1% in 1990.

Landfill Tax is not a source of revenue for central or local government, but is distributed amongst organisations engaged in projects that benefit the local community. In Lancashire grants are awarded by Lancashire Environmental Fund and Farington Community Fund. The Landfill Communities Fund enables operators of landfill sites to work in partnership with enrolled environmental bodies. The website allows projects to be listed by county, and selecting Lancashire lists a some of those undertaken by local environmental or charitable bodies. Also, the SUEZ Communities Trust and Biffa Awards websites together identify examples of projects around the country.

Environment and conservation maps

This section includes three topics that consider, local, national and international designations for the Lancashire-14 area, and agricultural land classifications.

Much of Lancashire's countryside and the coastal areas is covered by one or multiple designations. The West Pennine Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest was the largest such site newly designated for some time. Of particular note is the extensive amount of rural Lancaster and Ribble Valley that is within the Forest of Bowland.

The agricultural land classification map shows how the large amount of green belt land in West Lancashire also has a grade 1 agricultural classification.

Page updated December 2020