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7. Tourism

Core Strategy Strategic Objective

To strengthen the local tourism economy through supporting the development of tourism and cultural facilities, and visitor accommodation.

SCS Strategic Aim

There is a thriving tourist economy making it one of the top visitor destinations.

Why is this strategic objective?

7.1 Tourism can play an important part in a successful economy. It can act as the focus for regeneration, economic development and a catalyst for growth. It can provide significant employment, learning and educational opportunities for both visitors and residents of the District, and it can assist in bringing underused or vacant historic buildings back into meaningful use.

7.2 Tourism is important to Warwick District with around three million visitors per year. The District has a number of historic assets that provide tourist attractions, including the castles in Warwick and Kenilworth, Stoneleigh Abbey, the country houses of Packwood and Baddesley Clinton, the canal network, as well as the regency buildings and parks of Royal Leamington Spa. The District also has other attractions, including Hatton Country World and the Royal Showground which attract large numbers of visitors to the area on an annual basis. The tourism industry is an important component of the local economy, and it is estimated that average total spend by visitors is approximately £19 million per month in the District, supporting just under 5,000 jobs. The District's tourism and cultural facilities must therefore be supported to grow and improve in ways which maintain its attractiveness and integrity, particularly those assets associated with the historic environment.

7.3 The District also has a range of hotels and guesthouses providing visitor accommodation. However, research shows that the majority of tourists (over 75%) do not stay overnight in the area despite the fact that the District hosts many events and has one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country at Warwick Castle, and many others to entertain tourists for more than one day. Evidence suggests the area is regarded as more of a 'day out' destination rather than somewhere people use as a base for exploring the region. The District's economy may well therefore be missing out on additional income from tourism and it is important the Core Strategy seeks to help address this issue.

Evidence:

Participation

7.4 In response to public consultation on the "Issues Paper", sustainable tourism was considered a key issue to maintaining a vibrant and prosperous district. Nearly a third of respondents felt this was of high importance. There was also considerable support for expanding tourism with 67% in agreement. The most popular suggestions for improving tourism were improving tourist information, more hotel and tourist accommodation, and new visitor attractions and activities.

Research

7.5 The following documents provide further evidence on the importance of tourism and the issues to address:

  • Advantage West Midlands Visitor Economy Strategy 2008 sets out the strategic objectives for attracting more overnight visitors, and supporting local businesses and culture;
  • Coventry & Warwickshire Visitor Economy Strategy 2005-2009 sets out the strategic objectives for creating desirable destinations for tourism and conference facilities, providing a top quality visitor experience and implementing efficient and effective means for developing and promoting tourism;
  • Coventry and Warwickshire Visitor Survey 2006 provides a major market research appraisal of the visitor profile and views of people visiting the area; and,
  • Warwick District Tourism Economic Impact Assessment 2006 presents the results of surveys carried out with visitors to the District and lists the reasons for the visit, length of stay, origin of visitor, accommodation used when staying overnight, occupancy rates, visitor spend and local employment opportunities derived from tourism.

National and Regional Planning Policies

7.6 Relevant national planning policy on tourism is contained within The Good Practice Guide to Planning and Tourism (2006). The guide directs local authorities to include policies in the Core Strategy for tourism where it has been identified as a key issue. This should be done through engaging with the tourism industry and designing policies that address location, design and sustainability, and contributions to the environment. In addition, Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for Town Centres directs new arts, culture and tourism development, including hotels, to town centre locations wherever possible in order to promote their vitality and viability. In the rural area, villages should also provide a focus for tourism development appropriate to the needs and size of their catchment areas. PPS6 and the Good Practice Guide is currently being reviewed as part of the draft PPS4: Planning for Prosperous Economies, which was published in May 2009. This requires local planning authorities to support the provision of sustainable rural tourist and visitor facilities.

7.7 Regional planning policy requires the Core Strategy to include policies that support the further development and success of key regional assets, such as Warwick Castle and other significant historic sites, buildings and gardens. They should also generally encourage the improvement of existing tourism and cultural facilities, as well as the creation of new facilities, subject to the capacity of the infrastructure and the environment.

What are the Options?

7.8 National and regional planning policy is clear in terms of the approach that should be taken in the Core Strategy to supporting the development of tourism and cultural facilities, particularly regional assets such as Warwick Castle. It is considered therefore that the only other reasonable options available for the Core Strategy relate to the provision of visitor accommodation. Increasing the number of visitors to Warwick District who stay overnight has been identified as an issue to address in order to strengthen the local tourist economy. One of the reasons for low visitor numbers could potentially be viewed as a lack of adequate accommodation.

7.9 The Core Strategy will need to reflect national and regional policy in its approach to supporting new visitor accommodation within town centres, or as part of the reuse of suitable rural buildings. However, in terms of existing accommodation, an option for the Core Strategy would be to include a policy that seeks to protect all existing visitor accommodation from changes to alternative uses unless the accommodation is no longer viable or suitable to meet demand. An alternative, would be to seek to only protect existing visitor accommodation within or adjoining town centres. This approach would accord with national policy in terms of directing new visitor accommodation. Another option would be to continue the current Local Plan policy approach of not protecting existing visitor accommodation from changes to other uses.

Feedback - Options for Tourism
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What is our Preferred Option?

7.10 In addition to setting out strategic policies supporting the appropriate development of tourism and cultural facilities and visitor accommodation, the Council's Preferred Option to support tourism is to protect existing visitor accommodation within or adjoining the District's three town centres unless it can be demonstrated that the use is no longer viable or suitable.

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