South-West Staycations

18th August 2020

Planning for Changing Times in the South West’s Holiday Market

We are living through a period of significant change and the effects are being felt, to some degree, across the country in most sectors of the property market. There is, however, one sector that is particularly important in the south-west and where change is especially apparent; the holiday market.

As a planning consultancy operating across the west country, Bell Cornwell’s Devon and Cornwall office’s work on a wide range of tourism related projects encompassing hotels, holiday parks, visitor attractions and small-scale bespoke facilities. Our extensive experience in this sector has revealed a number of themes and growing trends which will be of interest to anyone with plans for development in the area.

Firstly, there is an increasing demand for staycations and domestic tourism. This probably reflects increasing concerns from travellers about their carbon footprint as well as the economic implications of BREXIT. Time will tell, but it may well be that COVID-19 and an impending recession will provide added impetus to this trend.

Additionally, holidaying in the south-west is going upmarket. For many years, the area has been perceived as a bucket-and-spade destination – a great place to take the kids in half-term but not somewhere which competes with more glamourous and reliably sunny destinations abroad. Whilst the weather will stay uncertain, the area’s tourism offer is undeniably improving. In Cornwall, the high-profile coastal towns of Rock, Padstow and Polzeath have played their part. As affluent visitors have been attracted to these destinations, interest has also started to increase in less prominent but equally attractive areas on the north coast such as Bude.

Bell Cornwell have been involved in a number of examples of this trend where a very tired and outdated holiday complex often in stunning, beachside location, is replaced with an entirely new development of upmarket accommodation designed to a very high standard. Such changes make an area not only more attractive to affluent urbanites but also to visitors from Europe and beyond who are increasingly visiting the area.

Interest from overseas investors is also growing significantly with organisations recognising and seizing the opportunity for site purchases.  In many instances, such acquisitions are leading to a wholesale redevelopment and the creation of a more luxurious resort style holiday park, quite far removed from the traditional mobile home resort.  From a local authority’s perspective, such changes also represent a welcome opportunity to enhance the quality of the local area, diversify the rural economy, generate jobs and increase the level of visitor spend.

Changing expectations are also generating prospects on a much smaller scale for local people. Many visitors are now looking for something different to the ordinary which is creating opportunities for individuals to provide bespoke accommodation. Alternative tourism that is aimed, for example, at allowing visitors to reconnect with nature, to enjoy the area’s dark skies or to have working holidays on local farms is another emerging theme. Meeting this demand creates a plethora of opportunities to host guests in a wide range of forms of small scale holiday accommodation, from the conversion of disused farm buildings to the siting of eco-lodges yurts and accommodation in tree houses. The internet now provides the means for individuals to advertise and market their schemes with much greater ease than ever before. Websites such as Airbnb and Booking.com are being harnessed by hosts and travellers alike and are undoubtedly contributing to this growing new tourist market. Bell Cornwell have assisted many clients in securing planning permission for a number of these projects, such as the Whitehall Gardens scheme.

So, what are the planning issues which need to be considered alongside the opportunities? In many ways this is good news all round. Landowners have the prospect of securing a greater return from a more diverse market, local authorities benefit from sustainable projects of a higher design standard than traditional forms of tourism, which will also deliver much greater economic enhancement to the area whilst local communities prosper from access to individual pursuits as well as new employment options. Inevitably however, the devil is in the detail. The inherent landscape and environmental sensitivities of many parts of the south-west means that great care needs to be taken to understand the regulatory environment when presenting the planning arguments to prove that the scheme in question will provide the benefits necessary to grant planning permission.

Having top quality planning advice and access to a great design team will be key to unlocking the potential on offer. If you are looking for planning advice on a leisure and tourism scheme, we would be delighted to help you and to share our experience on the various opportunities available. Please contact us here for further advice.

Iestyn John, Partner

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