Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Tourism

9.54 Tourism is changing. People are increasingly more interested in the experience rather than the destination. Today, people are seeking to take shorter breaks related to their hobbies and interests, good health and well-being, access to natural environmental assets and locally distinctive cultural and historical activities.

9.55 The South West Regional Tourism Strategy (Towards 2015 - A Tourism Strategy for the Region)[1] identifies three priorities: sustainable tourism, increased quality and improved destination management. The core objective is to develop a quality, year round, sustainable tourism sector and to achieve sustainable tourism, enhancing the tourism offer by investing in existing attractions and destinations and promoting the provision and quality of accommodation.

9.56 The Government Good Practice Guide on Planning for Tourism states that the planning system, by taking a pro-active role in facilitating and promoting the implementation of good quality development, is crucial to ensuring that the tourism industry can develop and thrive in the most sustainable manner possible.

9.57 PPS4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth contains Policy EC7: Planning for Tourism in Rural Areas. This policy supplements the Good Practice Guide by providing additional guidance for tourism applications in rural locations. The guidance is clear that tourism proposals in rural locations should be supported subject to appropriate protection of the countryside. Tourist facilities will be expected to be within existing or replacement buildings and located as far as possible in close proximity to rural service centres. Existing tourism accommodation will continue to be supported to maintain financial viability. Minimising the visual promenance and landscape impact of expanded holiday and caravan sites or chalets will be important. Statutory designated natural or cultural heritage assets are recognised as having scope for tourism proposals subject to appropriate control that ensures the features for which they are designated are not compromised.

9.58 Locally, tourism is important to the economy. In 2008, visitors spent £154 million in South Somerset and 5% of the workforce are employed in tourism. South Somerset has many strengths in this sector such as a diverse countryside with many designated landscapes, award winning local produce and its relative accessibility from other parts of the UK. However, it also has its weaknesses, for example it has a lower profile compared with other destinations in the South West, it lacks iconic attractions, accommodation and service quality is patchy and the District is mostly used as a 'passing through' destination.

9.59 The South Somerset Core Strategy Issues and Options document sought to identify tourism issues within South Somerset and to explore the most appropriate policy approach to be taken. The consultation comments raised a number of new tourism issues relevant to South Somerset including the contribution made by the historic environment, tourism accomodation and the need for environmental protection.

9.60 Whilst national guidance set out in the Good Practice Guide on Planning for Tourism and PPS4: Planning for Economic Growth covers many of the substantive issues associated with tourism applications in rural areas such as South Somerset, local policies are required to reflect the District’s development strategy and clarify advice for Major New Tourism applications.

1. South West Councils and Regional Development Agency publication [back]