Call for new sustainable tourism model for Northumberland to prevent areas reaching 'tipping point'

A key plan governing the future of the north Northumberland coast is calling for a ‘strategic overview of tourism across the county as a whole’ to ensure a ‘sustainable model’.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 1:07 am
Picture by Gavin Duthie

This new model should ‘lessen the use of the area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) as the primary marketing tool to attract visitors’, instead they should be ‘enticed to other destinations around the county including Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Northumberland National Park’.

As previously reported, consultation on the draft management plan for the Northumberland Coast AONB, which stretches from Berwick to the Coquet Estuary, started on Monday, January 20 and runs for six weeks.

The plan, which is the AONB’s most important document, sets out long-term aims and objectives to ensure that this nationally important landscape is conserved and enhanced for future generations to enjoy as it is today.

And this draft document, covering the period from 2020 to 2024, states: ‘Tourism is very important for the economy of Northumberland and this is exacerbated in the AONB where tourism is the major employer and economic driver.

‘The impact of increasing visitor numbers isn’t only an economic one and isn’t always positive. The growth in numbers is already impacting on the environment and the landscape of the AONB and on the quality of life of those people who live on the coast.

‘Just aiming to increase economic prosperity through an unmanaged increase in visitor numbers is not sustainable. Every place has a tipping point and increasing visitor pressure can easily catch a destination unaware.’

It continues: ‘A different model on the Northumberland coast is needed – a model that will lead to a regenerative economy, where success is measured in balance with environmental, social and cultural factors.

‘A model that protects and enhances the environmental and cultural assets on which tourism depends and that improves the quality of life of those living in the area by adding value to the place.’

The plan also addresses the issue of second and holiday homes in a section on ‘community vitality’.

‘A consequence of increased development pressure is the erosion of the community viability and vitality,’ it says. ‘Second homes and holiday lets now account for close to half of the housing stock in the AONB, with some communities actually closer to 80%.

‘The impact of this is that a settlement becomes unsustainable – an effective holiday village only vibrant in the high holiday season leaving the permanent population without services and provisions out of season.

‘While recognising the importance of tourism to the local economy, it is also recognised that second-home ownership is a different kind of tourism that has much less economic value as temporary residents are less likely to shop locally, eat out or visit local attractions.’

It also notes the impact that this has on house prices and the ability of local people to afford to live in the area as well as the coastal area’s age profile which is higher than that of Northumberland as a whole and much higher than the national average.

The consultation will run until Monday, March 2. Visit http://www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org/management-plan/ to read the plan and share your views.