Proposed key objective of NPF4: To support the inclusive economic growth of the tourism industry in a way that benefits and strengthens the resilience of local communities, including those in rural and coastal areas.
Respondents stressed that the tourist economy in Scotland is an important and expanding sector that can benefit both urban and rural economies.
Eco-tourism was referred to as a growth area, with a rewilding centre in the west of Scotland given as an example of eco-tourism activity. The cruise industry was also highlighted as being an important element of the tourist economy, and one that is expected to grow. It was reported that this will require investment in infrastructure, including port towns development and deep water alongside quays.
There was also a recognition of the need for tourism to be managed, with concerns expressed about the sustainability of unlimited growth in the most popular areas. An increase in tourism was noted to put pressure on other aspects of the system, for example through increasing carbon emissions from travel and in the form of conservation challenges. The RTIF was mentioned as a positive development, helping alleviate pressures on local communities in rural areas, and National Development status was proposed for infrastructure to support the tourism industry in the form of investment in transport, interpretation, digital communications and waste management networks to ensure tourists enjoy a high quality of experience.
It was suggested that, in rural areas, planning should support housing development to provide for the increased population required to deliver the services linked to tourism activities. However, the housing challenges for local people because of the prevalence of second and holiday homes were also noted.
It was reported that, while there is strong policy support for the tourism sector in national guidance documents this is not followed through in statutory development plans, with LDPs being variable.
Comments that specifically addressed the role of NPF4 sometimes reflected issues covered at other themes, and included that:
- The significant economic benefits from tourism for both rural and urban areas should be acknowledged and the infrastructure to support tourism, domestic and international, should be prioritised.
- The policy framework should protect the most important environmental assets from development, so that the character of natural and historic places is promoted and conserved for current and future generations. A national map of the most important tourist assets would help ensure their protection from other developments, at a national and local level.
- There could be a specific 'tourism strategy' which would define, identify and develop tourist assets, for example by creating 'destination clusters', thereby encouraging connectivity across tourist areas and managing/dispersing tourists away from concentrations of 'hotspots', such as Edinburgh.
- NPF4 should include a presumption in favour of appropriate tourist development that creates local employment and increases or sustains the rural population. LDPs could be required to identify key tourism assets in their area with policies which protect them and presume against the change of use.
- Planning policies should encourage collaboration between stakeholders to support tourism which is responsible and sustainable.
- NPF4 should include the infrastructure to support communities, for example in terms of visitor accommodation and transport, including to help visitors make their journeys in the most environmentally responsible way.
- Policies should include advice on managing the impact of short-term accommodation lets on tourism, local communities and the housing market.
- The development of green networks should be supported as this will increase access to the countryside, support biodiversity and contribute to carbon reduction. A master planning approach, alongside LPPs would help link tourism to active travel and green networks. Investment in paths and greenspace was seen as benefiting the wider public, including people living in areas of deprivation.
- The specific contribution of nature-based tourism should be recognised through polices that reflect the benefits of nature-based tourism in addressing threats to the climate and natural world.
- Policies should take account of static caravan sites, including the requirements of new sites and the development and improvement of existing ones.
- Coastal 'rollback' should be addressed, including policies which allow landowners/operators to respond to coastal change. This will bring NPF4 into line with planning policy in other parts of the UK.
A small number of National Development proposals either focused on the development of a tourism-related facility or included tourism-related elements within their proposal. They included the creation of a visitor centre, a suggestion for developing a coastal tourism and recreation destination as part of a mixed-use masterplan approach.
There was also a proposal for continued support for the NPF3 National Development of Dundee Waterfront, with the further development of tourism and recreational opportunities part of the future plans.
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