Coastal summit to discuss how to cope with increasing visitor numbers in Northumberland
Business leaders, landowners and tourism groups in Northumbrland are coming together for a special coastal summit.
It aims to shape and improve the delicate balance of visitor numbers and local communities in the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Recently there’s been year-on-year growth in visitor numbers following the successful marketing of the county as one of the UK’s leading holiday destinations.
This summer has seen unprecedented visitor numbers along the Northumberland coast, in particular the area covered by the AONB from Berwick to Cresswell.
A key factor this year has also been the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic with foreign travel restrictions and concerns over risk of transmission and health care arrangements all leading to a significant increase in ‘staycation’ holidays and increased numbers of day-trip visits into the county.
While the high influx of visitors has brought welcome economic benefits to the county it’s also placed some strain on the local infrastructure and created issues for some communities, along with impacts on the natural environment and landscape along the coast.
Coastal communities such as Alnmouth, Beadnell, Seahouses and Bamburgh raised concerns about overnight stays by camper vans, while there were also congestion and litter issues in other areas like Buston Links where Northumberland Estates closed the access road.
Cllr Wendy Pattison, whose Longhoughton ward includes popular villages including Newton-by-the-Sea, Craster and Boulmer, explained: “I know first-hand just how much tourism means to the area, but also the problems it can bring for local communities as well as the fragile ecology of the area.
“Over the past few months a range of issues have been raised with the county council, local county councillors and particularly the town and parish councils that fall within the AONB.
“These include issues such as parking facilities, toilets, littering and illegal camping and the protection of wildlife and sensitive habitats.
“This summit is an excellent way to hear from all sides about what works and also look at what improvements are possible for the area going forward.”
Council leader Glen Sanderson, who is chairing the summit, added: “We are so proud of our county and love to welcome the many thousands who come to enjoy everything we have to offer.
“This year has been unprecedented for many reasons and the huge surge in visitor numbers has not only brought a much needed boost to our economy, it’s created some tensions and concerns amongst the communities most affected.
“This virtual summit, to be held on November 11 and streamed live, aims to ‘reflect on and review’ the experiences this summer in the Northumberland Coast AONB, so this information can be used to plan ahead both in terms of any short-term measures and also the longer-term issues and approach to the management of visitors in the AONB.”
Among those invited are local county and parish councillors, the local MP, Northumbria Police and Northumberland Tourism along with representatives from the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership that represent organisations including the National Farmers Union, the Country Land and Business Association, Historic England, Natural England and the National Trust.
Following the summit an action plan will be agreed by February next year.