Key plan warns of impact of tourism on Northumberland coast

Chairman Cllr Jeff Watson with the new AONB management plan.Chairman Cllr Jeff Watson with the new AONB management plan.
Chairman Cllr Jeff Watson with the new AONB management plan.
A key plan for the Northumberland coast contains warnings over the impact of tourism at a time when the council is pushing the sector as part of the Covid-19 recovery.

The new management plan for the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was recently formally adopted by Northumberland County Council.

The document – which covers the period 2020-2024 – is a statutory plan under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) that sets out a shared long-term vision for the area.

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It describes the broad range of issues facing the Northumberland Coast AONB and includes a framework, revised from the 2014-19 plan, for action to conserve and enhance the area for future generations.

Cllr Jeff Watson, chairman of the AONB Partnership, said: “Working together is crucial if we are to conserve and enhance all of the things that make the AONB such a special place.

“This plan will steer the work of the AONB Partnership and the staff team, and provide guidance to local authorities, communities, organisations, landowners and land managers and businesses to achieve the aims set out in it.”

In the section on tourism, the plan states that it is ‘very important for the economy of Northumberland and this is exacerbated in the AONB where tourism is the major employer and economic driver’.

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But it adds: ‘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.’

It calls for a ‘a strategic overview of tourism across the county as a whole’.

However, he added: “We don’t want to be overrun by visitors, what we want to do is upscale and improve the experiences visitors have so they are more interested in our county, spend more and support more employment.”

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His comments came as new Visit Northumberland branding was unveiled, while the organisation is also seeking a director of visitor economy, following the recent joining of forces between Northumberland Tourism and the county council’s tourism function.

The AONB plan has been developed through consultation and a review process with a wide range of agencies, organisations and individuals who live and work in the area, but represents a fairly light-touch review given uncertainties around Brexit’s impact on environmental policy plus the future of how AONBs are funded.

The council’s AONB officer, David Feige, said: “We’re excited to be able to get to work on the new management plan.

“There could be significant changes in the resourcing and status of the AONBs following the Government’s response to the Glover Review, expected in the autumn, so we keenly await further details.”

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The full plan is now available online at while printed copies are available and can be sent out as necessary. Contact 01670 620306.

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