PUBLIC leaders in Cumbria have implored the public to 'stay local' in an open letter to the county's residents.

The letter, signed by MPs, council chief executives and other figureheads, says: "All authorities and partners in Cumbria are appealing to residents and visitors to adhere to the new lockdown guidance which is in place to protect the NHS and save lives.

"Whilst it may be tempting to go out for a scenic drive in the Lake District, now is the time to stay home, look after one another and play your part to make sure that Cumbria is ready for the return of visitors when it is safe to do so.

"As part of the lockdown guidance, one of the few reasons you can legitimately leave your home is to exercise.

"If you are leaving your home for exercise WE NEED YOU TO STAY LOCAL. This also gives people the chance to stay local and shop local – supporting many of your local essential businesses that are still able to open.

"Infection rates in Cumbria are currently very high and by staying home and staying local for exercise we can all do our bit to help protect Cumbria’s residents and its communities.

"With such iconic wintry scenes across the Lake District National Park, it may be tempting to travel to a favourite beauty spot for your daily exercise - but we are asking you to help us all by following the national rules and commit to staying local.

"We’re fortunate in living in Cumbria in that we are surrounded by many outdoor spaces on our doorstep, so why not explore the beautiful parks and walks close by and, while you’re out, support your local shop by shopping local?

"With lockdown back upon us, we are so sorry we can’t welcome you right now but we can’t wait to see you back to enjoy Covid-safe experiences across the whole of Cumbria, including the Lake District, when restrictions are lifted.

"In the meantime, please do continue to plan ahead, book ahead and give yourself something wonderful to look forward to. If you were due to visit in the next few weeks, do get in touch with your provider to arrange a new date -

"Everybody in Cumbria, both business and public sector, are now actively planning and preparing for the return of visitors when the time is right, and doing everything possible to ensure that they will have a safe and enjoyable time when it is the right time to reopen for business.

"But for now – if you have to leave home for essential reasons, please stay safe and stay local."

The full list of signatories is: 

Lyn Simpson, chief executive at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

John Lawlor OBE, chief executive, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

John Stevenson - MP for Carlisle

Dr Neil Hudson - MP for Penrith and the Border

Trudy Harrison - MP for Copeland

Mark Jenkinson - MP for Workington

Simon Fell - MP for Barrow and Furness

Tim Farron - MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

Gill Haigh - Managing director, Cumbria Tourism

Richard Leafe - Chief executive, Lake District National Park Authority

Mike Starkie - Mayor of Copeland  

Pat Graham - Chief executive, Copeland Borough Council 

Sam Plum - Chief executive, Barrow Borough Council

Cllr Ann Thomson - Leader, Barrow Borough Council

Andrew Seekings - Chief executive, Allerdale Borough Council

Cllr Mike Johnson - Deputy leader, Allerdale Borough Council

Cllr Giles Archibald - Leader, South Lakeland District Council

Lawrence Conway - Chief executive, South Lakeland District Council 

Cllr John Mallinson - Leader of Carlisle City Council 

Cllr Virginia Taylor - Leader, Eden District Council

Jason Gooding – Chief executive, Carlisle City Council and interim chief executive, Eden District Council

Jo Lappin - CEO of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and chair of the Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG)

Peter McCall - Police and crime commissioner for Cumbria

Chief Constable Michelle Skeer - Cumbria Constabulary