Policy E5: Visitor Attractions
The special characteristics of the World Heritage Site and existing visitor attractions should be sustained and conserved, and where possible enhanced and promoted.
Development proposals for existing and extended or refurbished visitor attractions will be supported where the visitor experience is enhanced:
- through the provision of improved facilities and interpretation at an existing attraction; and
- through better access to a site for all visitors with good links to public transport; and
- by location, use and design suited to the character of the area, and which does not have a negative impact on nearby properties and local residents’ amenity with regard to noise and traffic
Development proposals for new visitor attractions will be supported where:
- the type of experience is demonstrated to meet an acknowledged need such as heritage interpretation, an art gallery, conference venue, or family attractions; and
- a significant contribution to the quality of the City’s environment is made, in respect of location, scale, design sympathetic to, and in harmony with, the Durham vernacular architecture, and potential for use of vacant buildings; and
- the site is accessible to visitors and is well related and located to other attractions and facilities.
Policy E6: Visitor accommodation
Existing visitor accommodation should contribute positively to the evening and weekend economy and complement business and services in the City.
Development proposals for new, extended or refurbished visitor accommodation will be supported where:
- the accommodation to be provided would improve the range and quality available; and
- the location, scale and character of the development will not have an unacceptable adverse impact on the natural or historic environment; and
- in all cases a condition of consent is imposed to the provision of such accommodation to restrict continuous occupation so that it does not become a permanent residence.
Justification for Policies E5 and E6
4.160 The NPPF (Chapters 6 and 7) emphasises building a strong and competitive economy and ensuring the vitality of town centres. Planning policies should take “a positive approach to their [town centres] growth, management and adaptation” (NPPF para. 85) a particularly important requirement for town centres which are in decline, as in Durham City in recent years. Tourism is a major source of income for Durham City, which has a World Heritage Site and other attractions. Through the policies the intention is to support Durham City as a centre for tourist development and as a year round tourist destination. Further there is potential to improve the quality of the visitor experience and to extend the time visitors stay in the City while strengthening the economy and creating jobs.
4.161 Visit County Durham (2016) Durham Tourism Management Plan 2016- 2020 identifies the immediate action needed to deliver the tourism strategy for the County and City. Of particular importance to the economy is the need to improve facilities to lengthen the amount of time that visitors spend in the area. In terms of new development, the Management Plan identifies the main gap in the tourism experience to be the lack of a cluster of attractions in Durham City that clearly benefit other historic cities. Other facilities needed within the County, and therefore possibly to be considered within Our Neighbourhood, are conference venues, art galleries and family attractions. A City with a World Heritage Site is expected by visitors to have a gallery of some sort, but Our Neighbourhood lacks a regionally or nationally significant art space. Policy E5 seeks to achieve the balance between meeting acknowledged needs and protecting the environment of the City and its residents. Although the NPPF (para. 85) recommends the allocation of a range of sites, any such allocation in the Neighbourhood Plan would risk the loss of a potential development opportunity for another suitable use.
4.162 Comments received during the consultations have been assessed for potential improvements of the policies. There is general support for the provision of new and better attractions for the benefit of both residents and visitors.
4.163 There is a need for more and better visitor accommodation in the City, which is identified in the Durham Tourism Management Plan to be “boutique hotels – particularly in Durham City, quality bed and breakfast accommodation, inns with rooms, good quality 3 star properties” (Visit County Durham, 2016, p. 20). Policy E6 seeks to achieve a balance between meeting acknowledged needs and protecting the environment of the City and its residents.
4.164 Planning consent for all new visitor accommodation must include a condition of consent to ensure that the accommodation cannot be used as a permanent residence, in particular a House of Multiple Occupation. A recent planning application in Durham City attempted to get around the restrictions on HMOs by applying for planning permission as a Guest House.
Next section: Theme 4: A city with attractive and affordable places to live