Futures Forum: "Tourism rises" ... but questions remain for Sidmouth
there are questions about the status of things in the District as a whole...
The Local Plan clearly states that "Tourism is a key sector in the East Devon economy"
Futures Forum: East Devon and toursim
Tourism comes out on top:
East Devon is an attractive environment for enterprise witnessed particularly by the number of thriving small businesses. We have a vibrant tourism industry and some high quality jobs particularly in the Western part of the District with good access to the Exeter work market too. As a District we have low unemployment rates.
In fact, the largest employers in East Devon are very much part of the tourist trade:
Together we can help end the suffering | The Donkey Sanctuary
Stuart Line Cruises | Home
There does seem to be a question, however, as to how the District Council considers tourism - as seen during a debate at the House of Commons involving 'stakeholders in Exmouth' in 2006:
Mr Fowler (Eagle Investments Ltd) stated that Exmouth was a difficult town to categorise... Tourism was declining as traditional British resort goers were dying out. There was no development along the sea front, and the District Council was happy in some ways not to revive it. In the meantime development was occurring in other places, and therefore jobs were created elsewhere, leading young people to leave the town and adults to seek work elsewhere.
Mr Jeffs (Director of Communities, EDDC) said that the town was split over embracing tourism. As well as the commercial economic benefit it brought costs to residents: low paid work which in turn placed pressure on social housing; 420 holiday homes potentially empty for much of the year; unstable seasonal employment, which also led to difficulty finding housing... Tourism also made demands on the taxpayer, e.g. maintaining sea front gardens, seating and beach cleaning.
Mr Diviani (East Devon District Council (EDDC) portfolio holder for the Economy and Regeneration) stated that tourism represented 20% of the East Devon GDP. It was therefore balanced by other sectors. The RSS and the Regional Enterprise Strategy had increased employment provision. Many residents were resistant to change.
Ms Stuart (Stuart Line Cruises) informed the Committee that Exmouth had won an award for the best value family coastal resort. Stuart Cruises now operated all year round. The Exe was the top river in the country for wildlife and attracted visitors in winter. Other people were starting to realise the potential for winter activity. She felt that many people in the meeting seemed to be against tourism, when in fact there was great potential which went undeveloped. The sea front swimming pool, for example, went unmodernised, and holiday camps were expanding and not being noticed. Stuart Cruises now employed ten people plus seasonal part timers.
House of Commons - Communities and Local Government Committee - Second Report
Moreover, several responses to the draft Local Plan have questioned the commitment of the District Council to the tourist industry:
East Devon Proposed Local Plan Consultation 2012
East Devon's countryside is an asset and not, as described in one part of the LDF, "undeveloped land". It is a farming asset and a tourism asset providing an essential part of the AONB. As such it needs stronger protection by EDDC rather than the bringing forward of new plans for its "development".
Sid Vale Association - LDF Response
In his foreword to the New East Devon Local Plan, East Devon District Council leader Councillor Paul Diviani writes: “From the spectacular Jurassic Coast, through the rural landscapes of our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we are truly blessed with wonderful surroundings.”
Bad for the area - Home - Complete France
Green outcry - Letters - Sidmouth Herald
The Core Strategy document was especially neglectful of tourism, which accounts for 14% of the East Devon economy. We are pleased that this has subsequently been recognised and presumably will be addressed. The importance of tourism to retailing is obvious. In many Sidmouth shops, for example, tourist expenditure will be at least 50% of total turnover. The household income figures released by Devon County Council have shown conclusively that the expenditure of Sidmouth residents cannot sustain the quality individual shops of our town centre. This can only be possible through the boost provided by tourism. We need all-year-round tourism, and we need high-value tourism. It is therefore worrying that recent statistics from South West Tourism show East Devon tourism going downmarket faster than any other District in the region.
... including misgivings from District Councillors:
In East Devon the principal business and a main driver for our economy is, in my view, tourism and therefore in developing policies that support that part of the economy we will have to ensure that our countryside and built environment is right to sustain tourism.
However, District Officers point to the low-pay and low-skills associated with the tourist industry:
A high proportion of jobs in the District are in the tourism sector, which is
often poorly paid seasonal work with limited opportunities for training and
progression (16% of jobs in Devon overall are related to tourism).
within East Devon District, which leaves the economy vulnerable to any
structural changes in the economy.
The aim of East Devon’s Local Plan is to improve average income levels and
improve local job opportunities. Currently East Devon’s economic structure is
more represented by lower value sectors, predominantly focused on tourism
and retail sectors (Non B-Use). The Tyms Study identifies the main challenge
for East Devon in developing its economy, is attracting businesses to invest,
which is where appropriate employment sites and premises (B-Use) can be a
Futures Forum: Jobs and services: the hospitality industry
Developers also question the risks of over-relying on tourism, for example at Sidford:
Fords recognises that Sidmouth has a high reliance on tourism, retail, hospitality and elderly healthcare, and its services support many of these sectors. Despite Fords’ acknowledgement that these other services and employment types are invaluable, to sustain the existing employment economy and create a better and more robust economy, they need improved employment accommodation and the draft Local Plan should assist in offering a deliverable, practical and planned solution to meet this need.
Futures Forum: Sidford plans in detail
And at Exmouth, finding a 'balance' seems to be the preferred 'solution':
The vision for Exmouth in the Local Plan promotes reducing out commuting
through indigenous employment growth and tourism related development. The
calculation based on Strategy 31 promotes the need for 6.8 Ha. The Tyms
study identifies that Liverton Phase II (approximately 8 Ha) is likely to provide
sufficient supply in the short to medium term. An additional 3 Ha is promoted at
Liverton Phase III for the longer term. An additional 3 Ha of B-use land is
promoted at Goodmores Farm. The amount of employment land is to create
choice in employment and reduce out commuting.
Futures Forum: What is the difference between a 'business park'... and a 'retail park'?
The question remains, however:
What are the alternatives to the tourist industry?
It is interesting to consider the priorities of the influential former East Devon Business Forum
Futures Forum: Lobbying: East Devon Business Forum
chaired by former District Cllr Graham Brown who was also “Champion for Business and Tourism"...
Futures Forum: lobbying: follow-up
Futures Forum: Lobbying and transparency, continued...
This is from February this year, shortly before 'Browngate' erupted:
12 February 2013
Is tourism important to East Devon District Council? | Sidmouth Independent News
And here is a more recent posting from the Sidmouth Independent News site:
Tourism in East Devon: Graham Brown’s LDF Panel and the Caravan Parks. | Sidmouth Independent News
The old EDBF’s vision of tourism | Sidmouth Independent News
Sunday stroll past East Devon AONB at Ladram Bay | Sidmouth Independent News