District Local Plan Review

District-Wide Policies Index

Settlement Policies Index  

Chapter 4

Tourism, Recreation and Leisure

Introduction
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4.1 Tourism is a significant industry in the Forest of Dean. In 1998 it is estimated there were some three million visitors to the District. The industry provides around 1,500 direct jobs which amounts to 6% of the jobs available in the District. If indirect tourism jobs are added, the percentage rises to 8%. The estimated annual value of tourism was £40 million in 1998.
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4.2 The principal attraction for visitors is the natural beauty, tranquillity and uncommercialised feel of the area. Outdoor recreation, therefore, is the key attraction for visitors, including walking, wildlife watching and leisure driving, together with more active outdoor pursuits such as horse riding, cycling, canoeing and climbing.
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4.3 Particular natural assets that contribute to the popularity of the destination are the unrestricted access to the 10,700 hectares of the Dean Forest Park (managed by Forest Enterprise), the natural beauty of the Wye Valley and Malvern Hills AONBs, the valley of the River Severn, and the rich heritage of the rolling farmland and villages of the northern part of the District.
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4.4 With the development of tourism in the District there has been a growth of investment in commercial attractions, which have principally reflected the history, culture and natural assets of the area.
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4.5 Recreation and leisure activities are often closely linked with tourism, such as golf, walking, cycling, sightseeing, health and fitness pursuits and sports facilities. There has been a considerable growth in these activities, and developments to cater for these needs are frequently available to both the resident population and visitors, with benefits for both. It is anticipated that there will be continually rising demands and expectations from the resident population, as well as visitors, for additional and improved facilities for both indoor and outdoor recreation and leisure.
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4.6 Recreation and leisure comprises one of the fastest growing business sectors in the country. It is forecast to make a significant contribution to new employment in the District over the Plan period. It can be combined with tourism developments to increase the potential for such growth, by widening the range of users and increasing the viability of such developments.
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Issues
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4.7 The tourism, recreation and leisure industries are important elements of the local economy, and are also forecast to grow over the Plan period . The Plan must provide for this growth, to assist economic revitalisation.
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4.8 However, the principal attraction of the District for visitors is its natural environment. The Plan, therefore, must ensure that these qualities of the District are maintained and enhanced if tourism is to continue to grow. The number of tourists is already considerable, but can largely be accommodated as there is a natural dispersion in the countryside, particularly within the extensive woodlands. At some locations there are visitor pressures, such as at Symonds Yat viewpoint. Some Forest Enterprise facilities can become crowded over limited peak periods.
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4.9 The Plan must, therefore, contain policies which support tourism and leisure development, but which enable the protection of those natural assets of the Forest of Dean which underpin its success.
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4.10 Day and touring visitors comprise a very high proportion (92%) of all visitors to the District. The further development of tourism will concentrate upon increasing the number of staying visitors, who may be expected to contribute proportionately more to the local economy. For this approach to be successful there is an underlying need to provide more, and good quality, visitor accommodation. At present there is a preponderance of camping and caravan pitches in the accommodation provision in the District, largely concentrated near Coleford. The Plan will support provision of a wider variety of visitor accommodation, particularly hotel and self catering provision.
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4.11 The management of large numbers of visitors in the countryside requires the provision of supporting infrastructure, such as car parks, refreshment facilities, toilets and visitor information. The Plan will support the provision of such facilities where they are needed.
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4.12 The rising leisure expectations of the population will continue to result in demand for and the provision of further recreational provision. In recent years for example three new golf courses have been built, an indoor swimming pool, new tennis courts, all-weather pitches, a gymnastic centre and fitness facilities. The advent of lottery funding has supported a number of these developments, and further public and private sector leisure developments are anticipated to come forward over the Plan period. Policies must provide for such development, both to support new investment and employment and also to meet the aspirations of the local population and improve the quality of life in the District.
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Strategic Framework
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4.13 The revitalisation strategy of the Plan envisages a substantial growth in employment within the District. The tourism, recreation and leisure industries can make a significant contribution in terms of new job creation. The Plan will therefore support and promote such developments.
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4.14 The Plan strategy will emphasise the need to protect the natural environment, and to promote the principles of sustainable development. The natural environment is a fundamental asset for the tourism industry as it comprises the key attraction for visitors. The Plan will balance the development of tourism with the protection of the natural environment.
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4.15 Increasingly tourism strategies are being based upon sustainable principles, whereby the development of the industry is being guided to conserve and enhance the environment and manage and inform visitors as to their impact upon their surroundings. Indeed many visitors expect and wish to see such practices. The policies in the Plan will have regard to such principles in providing for appropriate forms of development.
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4.16 Policies will provide for new tourism, recreation and leisure developments within settlements as well as in the countryside.

Objectives

  1. To encourage the development of sustainable tourism, recreation and leisure
  2. To balance tourism, recreation and leisure development with the protection of the environment.

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Policies and Proposals
Tourism, Recreation and Leisure Development within the Towns
(R)FTRL.1

Proposals for tourism, recreation and leisure development within the defined settlement boundaries of Lydney, Cinderford, Coleford and Newent will be permitted where they meet the requirements of policy (R)FBE.1 with respect to the form, function and impact of the proposed built development, and are of a scale and nature which is well related to the size and character of the town in which they are to be located.

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4.17 Within the settlement boundaries of the four towns it is anticipated that most potential tourism, recreation and leisure development can be assessed within the same policy framework as other forms of development, for example housing or commercial businesses. The reference to policy (R)FBE.1 emphasises this approach, as that policy is concerned with regulating the impact of a proposed development upon its surroundings, its design and the way in which it will function. Other policies of the Plan may also be relevant.
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4.18 The scale of possible developments can vary greatly, from small guest houses which are largely indistinguishable from adjoining dwellings, to hotels, sports centres, conference centres or visitor attractions, which may give rise to large numbers of visitors. The scale of a proposal is therefore a significant factor in assessing the acceptability of a development, in terms of the physical size of buildings and the numbers of visitors associated with the use. The above policy therefore provides that development should have regard to the scale which is appropriate for the settlement. The nature of the proposal is also relevant. It would not be appropriate to introduce a type of use which would be fundamentally alien to the existing character of a settlement.
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4.19 The criteria in the above policy provides a framework for assessing proposals. It is expected that most forms of development within the four towns will be capable of meeting the policy requirements, including hotels, leisure facilities and visitor attractions, and that the industry will continue to develop and contribute to the economy of the District.
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Tourism Recreation and Leisure Development in Villages and in the Countryside
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(R)FTRL.2

Proposals for tourism, recreation and leisure development in villages and in the countryside will be permitted where they meet the following requirements:

  1. The location proposed is essential to the effective operation of the proposal and where the location is in the countryside there is no reasonably suitable alternative site or premise available within any settlement boundary
  2. The scale, nature and design of the proposal is consistent with the character and visual amenity of the area
  3. There would be no unacceptable impacts arising from additional visitor numbers, including impacts upon the natural environment
  4. The potential for using existing buildings to accommodate the uses proposed is fully utilised before new build is proposed
  5. In the case of visitor accommodation the proposal is for holiday uses and not as permanent or principal places of residence.

In all cases proposals must provide for minimising the energy, water and waste demands and impacts arising from the development.

Where the proposal is for 10 or more units of visitor accommodation, or would provide for more than 10,000 visitors annually, an environmental assessment must be submitted. Where it appears from the environmental assessment that the proposal does not conform to policy (R)F.Strategy 2 then development will not be permitted.

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4.20 The principal visitor asset of the District is the attraction offered by the high quality natural environment, and its undeveloped, tranquil and uncommercialised nature. A significant number of visitor attractions and recreation and leisure facilities in the District are related to the display and interpretation of the physical, natural or historic heritage of the area, or the use of open space, and have a location in villages or in the countryside. Examples are the former iron and coal mines, wildlife centres, historic buildings and farm based enterprises. Much of the visitor accommodation is similarly in a countryside location, particularly camping and caravan sites, self-catering complexes and farm based accommodation.
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4.21 The policy stresses the issues of scale, nature and design as being prime considerations in determining the acceptability of proposals in a village or a countryside location. Most new developments may be expected to be small in scale, consistent with existing provision, and will have relatively little impact on their surroundings. However, the relative lack of infrastructure in some villages and in the countryside, together with the need to protect the environment, gives rise to the need to consider for all developments the issues of energy, water and waste to assess the extent to which the development may be environmentally sustainable.
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4.22 Larger scale proposals pose more difficult issues with respect to environmental sustainability. For tourism, recreation and leisure to grow in the District it must be anticipated that countryside and village locations will be proposed for development. Therefore the policy provides that an environmental assessment must be submitted in such circumstances for larger developments. The environmental assessment should contain inter alia forecasts of travel movements associated with the development, and the measures proposed to minimise use of the private car, for example by providing for bus and rail transfers from transport interchanges. It is likely that private car access will continue to predominate. In 1999 over 90% of visitors to the District came by car. However, development proposals must provide for the minimisation of car use.
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4.23 To offset any environmental debits associated with private car movements or other aspects of the proposed development in rural areas the environmental assessment must indicate the extent to which offsetting measures can be incorporated into the proposal. Such measures may include the design, orientation and energy strategy for the use which maximises energy conservation, the minimisation of the use of natural resources in the design and materials used for construction, and a waste strategy which minimises environmental impacts, and proposals which conserve or enhance the natural or man-made environment.
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4.24 The environmental assessment requirements are based on the provisions of policy (R)F.Strategy 2. Where it appears that a reasonable balance has been achieved in terms of sustainable development within the terms of that policy then planning permission may be given notwithstanding that the location in itself does not minimise travel needs or maximise use of existing infrastructure.
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4.25 The above policy is intended to enable the continued development of tourism, recreation and leisure in the countryside and in villages, subject to minimising environmental impacts. In this context other Plan policies are also relevant, including (R)FNE.1 and (R)FT.2.
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Golf Courses and Driving Ranges
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(R)FTRL.3
Proposals for the development of golf courses and golf driving ranges must comply with all the requirements of policy (R)FNE.1. Applications for planning permission must provide at least the following information:
  1. The proposed layout of fairways, tees and greens
  2. Thge location and a block layout plan of any ancillary buildings and their uses
  3. Vehicle access points and parking areas
  4. Strategic landscaping proposals
  5. The existing proposed position of all public rights of way within and adjoining the site
  6. The position, height and illumination power of flood lighting
  7. The proposed source of the water supply for the development

Where possible existing buildings should be used for ancillary golf facilities. Proposals for additional buildings must be for essential ancillary uses only, and will be treated on their merits having regard to other policies of the Plan.

Proposals for golf courses and driving ranges within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be evaluated against the priority accorded to the protection of the landscape and the need to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area.

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4.26 Large scale developments such as golf courses will need careful evaluation against the relevant criteria of this policy and policy (R)FTRL.2, and in the case of proposals within the AONB=s, also policy (R)FNE.4. In addition there will always be a concern that such development should not lead to the permanent loss of good quality agricultural land, as once a development is in place it is very unlikely that the land will ever be returned to agriculture.
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4.27 Other aspects of concern relate to the possible impact on the landscape and disturbance to amenity arising from any flood lighting proposals, which may prove to be an intrusive element in the open countryside. Development proposals which affect the use of public rights of way must make satisfactory provision for their retention or diversion and for the safety of users of the rights of way. It will be a material consideration to assess the effect of the proposal upon water resources, as golf courses can be very large users of water, and the use of private supplies will be encouraged. Golf courses often give rise to the demand for additional buildings. The principle should be to use any existing buildings where possible. Other forms of development proposed in association with golf courses, for example holiday accommodation, will be considered against the relevant Policies of the Plan.
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4.28 The above policy primarily relates to the details of golf course development. This is necessary because of the extensive nature of the use and the potential therefore for a significant landscape impact. In all cases proposals for golf course and golf driving ranges will be assessed initially against the requirements of (R)FTRL.2 with respect to the suitability of the location proposed, the impact of the development upon its surroundings, and the sustainable nature of the development.
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Provision of Recreational Access
(R)FTRL.4

The District Council will provide and improve recreational access to the countryside, and routes between settlements. Where appropriate contributions will be sought from development proposals towards such routes.

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4.29 The District Council in recent years has provided a network of multi purpose cycling and walking links which provide for recreational access to the countryside, and between settlements. In addition the Cinderford Linear Park has been completed, providing recreation and access links to the Forest and other locations. The Plan provides for extensions to the Linear Park. The Council intends to provide for further off-road or other safe routes between communities, and to ensure that new developments provide links to any adjoining footpaths in their vicinity, and to services and facilities in the locality. Where appropriate contributions will be sought from developments towards providing such routes. In some instances such provision will enable pedestrian access and reduce the need to travel by car.
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Protection of Rights of Way
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(R)FTRL.5

Development proposals which adversely affect existing rights of way will not be permitted except where satisfactory provision is made for their retention or diversion.

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4.30 The rights of way network is an invaluable asset for informal open-air recreation, providing extensive opportunities for access to the wider countryside. Research by the Countryside Agency has shown that informal enjoyment of the countryside is by far the most popular form of recreation undertaken by the population at large. Similar research among visitors to the District has discovered that half of those questioned gave walking/rambling as their principal activity during their stay.
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4.31 The District is fortunate in having an extensive network of rights of way. In addition the permissive "right to roam" in the very extensive Forest Enterprise woodlands adds very greatly to countryside access opportunities. Because of the importance of rights of way to the local population, and to the tourism industry, the District Council will work towards maintaining and improving the network throughout the District.
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4.32 The principal responsibility for rights of way lies with Gloucestershire County Council, as Highway Authority. The District Council will co-operate fully with the County Council in the implementation of the County strategy for public rights of way in Gloucestershire.
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Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal
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(R)FTRL.6

The District Council will safeguard the historic line of the former Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal and its associated works, buildings, or features from development which could prevent restoration. Where the original line is already obstructed by permanent structures an alternative route will be agreed and subsequently safeguarded.

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4.33 Part of the former Herefordshire and Gloucestershire canal lies within the District. It is the long term aim of the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust to restore the entire length of the canal between the River Severn and Hereford, a distance of 34 miles. Considerable effort has already resulted in the restoration of several sections of the canal and it is important that the ultimate reinstatement is not compromised by development. The Plan will therefore safeguard the historic line of the Canal where it is not already obstructed by permanent structures. Where so obstructed, the Council will safeguard any agreed diversion routes. Where the Canal is presently restored it offers considerable recreation opportunities. When restoration is complete then tourism and economic advantages will accrue to the area. The restoration of this important water feature will provide informal recreation and nature conservation benefits. The Council supports the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust in their endeavours to restore the Canal to a full navigable waterway.
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Dean Forest Railway
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4.34 The Dean Forest Railway has developed as a tourist attraction, operating a variety of locomotives and rolling stock between Lydney and Whitecroft, and will shortly extend the operating line to Parkend. It provides mainline connections at Lydney to the Cardiff-Birmingham rail route. It has the potential to grow as a visitor attraction in its own right, as well as providing passenger services and connections, and possible freight transfer facilities at both Lydney and Parkend.
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4.35 The operation of this important transport route for passengers, freight and tourism will be safeguarded by policy (R)FT.5 from development which would limit its effectiveness, and support is given to the increased use of this rail line for passenger, tourism and freight purposes.
District Local Plan Review

District-Wide Policies Index

Settlement Policies Index


Forest of Dean District Local Plan Review, 1st Deposit Draft. July 2000


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