17. Culture & Tourism
Cultural assets such as theatres, cinemas, libraries, historic sites and places of worship can enrich people’s quality of life. They can also act as a magnet to attract visitors and thus form a key part of the economy. It is therefore appropriate to consider how planning can assist in culture and tourism.
The District is culturally rich and has a vibrant and active local arts community together with a confident and high profile professional arts sector. There are regular cultural festivals and sporting events. Furthermore, the attractiveness of the towns, parks and local countryside are attractions in and of themselves.
The District has many historic assets that operate as visitor attractions such as castles in Warwick and Kenilworth, Stoneleigh Abbey, the country houses of Packwood and Baddesley Clinton, the canal network as well as the regency buildings and parks of Royal Leamington Spa. The District also has other attractions such as Hatton Country World and Stoneleigh Park, all of which generates approximately 3.1m trips a year to the area. The estimated spend is £220m and supports over 4,850 jobs.
The Council’s Vision for the Future Sustainable Prosperity of Warwick District sees tourism as being a key part of the local economy and the Local Plan should positively promote and actively deliver tourism. The district’s cultural assets and visitor facilities should therefore be supported to grow and improve in ways which maintain its attractiveness and integrity, particularly those assets associated with the historic environment.
It is important to note that this topic has important links to a number of other preferred option topics within this paper including, Green Infrastructure, the Historic Environment, Transport, Healthy Communities, Employment & Town Centres.
Relevant Issue & Strategic Objectives
The Local Plan needs to ensure that there are opportunities for enhancing the level and quality of cultural and leisure facilities in order to improve health and wellbeing and positively promote tourism as part of the local economy.
Cultural facilities provision contributes to vibrant and sustainable communities. Cultural facilities within new development may provide opportunities for community activity and social cohesion.
See objectives 3 and 15 as set out in paragraphs 4.13 to 4.15 above
SCS Strategic Aims:
There is a thriving tourist economy making it one of the top visitor destinations
There are opportunities for everyone to enjoy and participate in sport, the arts and cultural activities
SCS Strategic Priority:
Economy, Skills & Employment: An economically vibrant and creative community – low carbon based, focusing on the development of the knowledge economy/creative/high value engineering and design industries, the health of its town centres and rural areas and promoting continuous learning and innovation in our educational, economic, tourism, sporting and cultural activities.
PO17: Culture & Tourism
The sustainable development of new visitor attractions and cultural assets will be supported where it can be demonstrated that there is a need and the location is appropriate.
Our preferred option in relation to tourism is to set out a strategic policy supporting the appropriate development of tourism and visitor accommodation. The Council’s preferred option to support tourism is to protect existing visitor accommodation within or adjoining the District’s three town centres unless it can be demonstrated that the use is no longer viable or suitable. Within the urban areas, new visitor accommodation will be directed to the town centres.
In the rural area, the development of new buildings for visitor accommodation will be considered favourably in locations which are accessible to visitors by means other than the private car and can be developed sensitively in the rural area. Outside of these locations, new visitor accommodation will not be permitted, however, the conversion of appropriate rural buildings will be permitted where they are of small scale or a low intensity and will not harm the character of the rural area. Extensions to visitor accommodation in the rural area will only be permitted where these do not significantly intensify the used of the site or establish new uses which are not ancillary to the normal business of the visitor accommodation.
Our preferred option in relation to culture is to set out a strategic policy supporting the appropriate development of cultural facilities and attractions that positively shape places and the public realm. This includes:
- Continuing to support the development of the cultural quarter in Leamington Spa as identified as Opportunity Site D in the Local Plan 1996 – 2011.
- Seeking contributions towards cultural facilities in conjunction with new development where appropriate.
- Seeking contributions towards the provision of new works of art as part of new development and ensuring it is integrated into development at an early stage.
Furthermore, for the rural areas, the following Local Plan 1996 -2011 will be carried forward:
- RAP13 Directing New Outdoor Sport and Recreation Development
- RAP14 Golf Facilities
- RAP15 Camping & Caravanning Sites
Justification for Preferred Option
National Planning Policy Framework
Cultural well being is recognised as a key element of one of the three dimensions of sustainable development – the social role – supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities. One of the Core Planning principles in the NPPF states that local plans should “take account of and support local strategies to improve health, social and cultural wellbeing for all, and deliver sufficient community and cultural facilities and services to meet local needs.” In addition, the NPPF recognises tourism and cultural facilities as main town centre uses and, as such, should be directed to these areas and ensure a sufficient supply of suitable sites.
The NPPF states that, in rural areas, local plans should support sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments that benefit businesses in rural areas, communities and visitors, and which respect the character of the countryside. This should include supporting the provision and expansion of tourist and visitor facilities in appropriate locations where identified needs are not met by existing facilities in rural service centres. And local planning authorities should promote the retention and development of local services and community facilities in villages, such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship.
The NPPF also states that local plans should set out strategic policies for the provision of cultural infrastructure. Furthermore, to promote healthy communities and to deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs, planning policies and decisions should:
- plan positively for the provision and use of shared space, community facilities (such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship) and other local services to enhance the sustainability of communities and residential environments;
- guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day-to-day needs;
- ensure that established shops, facilities and services are able to develop and modernise in a way that is sustainable, and retained for the benefit of the community; and
- ensure an integrated approach to considering the location of housing, economic uses and community facilities and services.
In addition to the NPPF, extant planning policy on tourism is also contained within The Good Practice Guide to Planning and Tourism (2006). The guide directs local authorities to include policies in the Local Plan for tourism where it has been identified as a key issue. This should be done through engaging with the tourism industry and designing policies that address location, design and sustainability, and contributions to the environment.
Warwick District Tourism & Visitor Economy Strategy
The recently prepared Tourism & Visitor Economy Strategy illuminates how and where the Council’s involvement will add greatest value to the active promotion of tourism within the District. The vision is to work with partners to ‘present a clear, compelling message about the area’s unique strengths, which has the active support of local businesses and communities, and which is founded on the highest standards of visitor welcome’. The strategy aims to grow the District’s economy by more than 5% a year over the next decade.
The strategy recognises that most visitors come to the District for the day and live within the West Midlands area. Although, people from further afield do stay in the area for short breaks and there is a significant overseas market making up 13% of all trips. It is, therefore, important that a range of transport options are available for people visiting key cultural assets, so that people can make sustainable transport choices.
The strategy identifies ‘place shaping’ as one of the 4 key aims: creating a distinctive destination experiences for the three towns and other areas based on their own strengths which should be built upon.
The emerging Economic Development and Regeneration Strategy’s first priority is to grow the existing business base including the creative industries. Priority number three is to support and grow the retail visitor and rural economy.
Warwick District Arts Development Strategy
The Arts Strategy 2009 – 2013 explores the current arts provision within the District, looking at service provision, the role of public art and the links to cultural tourism. This is encapsulated in an action plan for the arts and culture within the area.
One of the themes of the strategy is ‘Unique Spaces and Places’ and includes the objective of using the arts to revitalise and enhance the District’s public spaces fostering a strategic approach to public art developments. This includes the development of a well-used Cultural Quarter for the District with its hub at Spencer Yard, Leamington Spa. Whilst funding opportunities for the cultural quarter have changed, the Council continues to maintain a long term commitment to the cultural quarter, including the reuse of the United Reform Church as a creative and performing space.
From last year’s Helping shape the District consultation, the majority of residents agreed that access to sporting and cultural facilities to improve the health and well-being of local people is a key issue for the Local Plan to address. There was recognition of the role of cultural, heritage and arts facilities as well as community events as a means of education and bringing people together, and that these also deserve protection and enhancement as foundations for future development. Maintaining cultural and community identity can strengthen the sense of place and belonging, and was also cited as an important related issue. It was also suggested more generally across the three towns that tourism should be included alongside retail and leisure as facilities which need continuing improvement in the town centres. Concern was raised at the lack of visitor attractions and the need to enhance tourism
National planning policy is clear in terms of the approach that should be taken in the Local Plan to supporting the development of tourism and cultural assets. It is considered therefore that the only other reasonable options available for the Local Plan relate to the provision of visitor accommodation. Increasing the number of visitors to Warwick District who stay overnight has been identified as an issue to address in order to strengthen the local tourist economy. One of the reasons for low visitor numbers could potentially be viewed as a lack of adequate accommodation. However, evidence is needed that the type and range of visitor accommodation is appropriate. This is something that is being prepared as part of the Visitor and Tourism Strategy Action Plan.
The Local Plan will need to reflect national policy in its approach to supporting new visitor accommodation within town centres, or as part of the reuse of suitable rural buildings. However, in terms of existing accommodation, an option for the Local Plan would be to include a policy that seeks to protect all existing visitor accommodation from changes to alternative uses unless the accommodation is no longer viable or suitable to meet demand. An alternative, would be to seek to only protect existing visitor accommodation within or adjoining town centres. This approach would accord with national policy in terms of directing new visitor accommodation. Another option would be to continue the Local Plan 1996 – 2011 policy approach of not protecting existing visitor accommodation from changes to other uses.
For the rural areas an alternative option would be to continue to not permit new building for visitor accommodation. However, it is considered this would not support the diversification of the rural economy in accessible centres.