Holiday park experts back campaign to keep key planning guide on agenda

Government moves to axe a key planning guideline aimed at supporting Britain’s tourism businesses have been criticised by sector experts Colliers International.

The Good Practice Guide on Planning for Tourism has provided crucial assistance to owners and operators of tourism businesses in seeking planning consent to grow their businesses and adapt to market demand since it was first published in 2006. But the Government is planning to scrap the guide from March this year.

Colliers International sector specialist Ben Jones is advising businesses who are currently or expecting to be involved in planning applications to voice their objections through the consultation process – which closes on February 15.

He said: “This is a potential threat to an important sector that contributed £101 billion in 2011, or 6.7 per cent of total GDP, with 2.3 million direct, indirect and induced sustained jobs. The potential impact will be acutely felt across the South West of England and Wales where tourism is a major contributor to the regional economy.”

He went on: “The guide is intended to ensure that planners understand the importance of tourism and take this fully into account when preparing development plans and taking planning decisions.

“As national advisors to the tourist sector we operate across the country and often witness first-hand inconsistencies in approach by individual local authorities when assessing planning applications for new developments and uses.

“This leads to imbalances in the market, restricting those leisure businesses that are subject to more restrictive policies as well as allowing some ill-conceived proposals to progress.

“For instance, some local authorities limit the length of operating season for caravan parks and impose restrictive occupancy conditions whilst others allow full twelve month occupancy which has a direct impact upon trading performance and capital value.

“The addition of further bedrooms can take an unprofitable hotel and make it profitable through scale. The addition of letting accommodation or food and beverage operations can transform a struggling golf course and make it sustainable.

“A negative approach towards new development proposals can be the result of a lack of understanding of the benefits that such development can bring to the wider economy. The guide is a valuable tool in promoting the economic argument.

“Rather than being scrapped, the guide should be updated so that planning officers understand the national context and are consistent in their application.”

Ben Jones concluded: “From our perspective as consultants, the guidance provides a useful framework when preparing planning applications for clients. It is especially useful to laypeople in providing a starting point to understanding the process and parameters by which an application is judged before incurring significant cost.

“Taking it away will only lead to greater uncertainty and cost for those who are looking to invest in tourism and their local economies. More worryingly it could result in a failure to capitalise on opportunities to develop and grow businesses and boost employment.”

The government consultation runs until 15 February 2013 and Colliers International will be making representations in support of the guide.

People wishing to comment on the proposals can do so at