The Rise in the ‘Staycation’ Supported by County Durham’s Spatial Vision

Tourism across County Durham continues to grow annually, with new attractions developing in the Durham Vale, rural west and east coast, in line with more people looking for a home-based ‘staycation’.

Such attractions and industry provide sustainable employment and future opportunities to support the growth of Durham’s economy. To enable this, it is vital to have flexibility in policies and the necessary infrastructure to strengthen the opportunity and meet the needs of communities balanced against respecting the amenity, character and beauty of the places where they are proposed.

Ethical Partnership has recently successfully secured retrospective planning permission for a holiday let in Low Hedleyhope Hall Farm, named the ‘Haybarn’, whereby we produced a detailed planning statement and application. Throughout the determination, we monitored the application and liaised with both client and case officer to secure the permission of this beautiful rural accommodation.

The ‘Haybarn’ is a stylish barn conversion, displaying features of traditional and contemporary style. The stone exterior reflects the rural setting of the holiday let whilst providing facilities catering to the desirability of holiday seekers, such as private outdoor patio and seating, a barbecue, fire pit, hot tub and private parking.

The building was restored in 2021 to offer a high standard of accommodation, blending traditional beams with contemporary furnishings, this first floor accommodation has a stylish open plan living space. Additionally, the renovation included traditional established barn ceilings and the installation of sash windows which complement the property, allowing the natural light to highlight the beauty of the rural location.

The site also benefits from privacy from neighbour properties with 8-foot fencing bordering the outdoor patio area, where the rear space also allows guests to venture into the surrounding space where wildlife will roam; an experience not all holiday lets are able to offer.

Durham County Council state the visitor sector is an important and resilient part of the county’s economy. To raise the quality of the visitor experience, the provision of new visitor attractions, or the expansion of existing attractions will be permitted provided they sustainable and accessible locations which demonstrate viability and supports the development of a year-round visitor economy.

The ‘Haybarn’ is ideally located within the grounds extending around the property into local trails, appealing to those visitors wishing to stay in a location with a variety of country walks. Hamsterley Forest, which is approximately twelve miles away from the property, is one of the north’s most popular destinations for cyclists and walkers, attracting visitors near and far. Covering some of the most breath-taking countryside views and offering various bike trails and plenty of walks for guests of all abilities, including the very popular Gruffalo Trail for children.

Due to the county’s sparse population and the predominance of high-quality countryside throughout the area, presents both residents and visitors with a range of easily accessible informal recreation opportunities, such as walking, riding, sports and active recreation. The area is fortunate in this respect compared to many areas where such opportunities are much less accessible.

Tourism is a major factor in the local economy and contributes to the maintenance and enhancement of employment opportunities and services. Whilst it is the quality of the natural and built environment of the District that attracts most visitors, Teesdale contains a number of tourist attractions such as Barnard Castle, Bowes Museum, High Force and the Pennine Way. As well as having its own attractions within the district, Teesdale is also an ideal base for visiting many major attractions such as, Beamish Museum, Durham Cathedral, Hadrians Wall, Hartlepool Marina, Metro Centre and Tees Barrage.

Tourism directly and indirectly assists the local economy by creating employment and providing a valuable source of income, particularly in retailing and catering. The economic development strategy recognises the importance of tourism in the local economy. It is therefore an activity that will be encouraged in a way which maximises the benefits to visitors and residents alike, and minimises its potential impact on social, economic and environmental interests. The proposal complies with such aspirations.

The County Durham Plan and Teesdale Local Plan emphasise the importance of policies being directed towards achieving the development of tourism schemes, that do not damage the environment, disturb wildlife or detrimentally effect the interests of local residents. The proposal balances such interests in a sustainable manner allowing guests to enjoy a rural getaway, come face to face with farm animals and ultimately assist in the supporting of the local economy by using a range of facilities other than the letting itself. Both plans share an aim of encouraging a wider range of holiday accommodation. The site was identified to be both an appropriate scale to the character of the area and demonstrates a clear opportunity to make the location more sustainable for future social, economic and environmental prospects.

This site offers a unique opportunity for a tourism development that can respect the surrounding area and the trees and vegetation on site by offering a suitable design and protections whilst adapting it for a sustainable holiday-use. The site broadens the current range of tourism establishments within surrounding area and in so doing support the local economy by introducing sustainable tourist ‘getaways’.

County Durham’s visitors dropped 43.3% in 2020 in comparison to 2019 due to the hardships of the pandemic. Ultimately, this has had an impact on local businesses and livelihoods.

As we face a stage where lockdown restrictions are less of a concern, it is important for the council to take opportunities to promote visitor accommodations to encourage tourists to revive areas of the county which would usually thrive from tourism. As this type of tourism is on the rise, it is important to look at the sustainability of areas which can confidently provide a space to support guests and therefore contribute to social and economic revival. Therefore, planning permission was granted for this site.

At Ethical Partnership we have a wide breadth of knowledge regarding planning matters. We are an interdisciplinary team and will be able to advise and support you in all planning, architectural and landscape needs.

If you would like to find out more about the work we do, you can check out the services we offer here and have a look through our portfolio of work here. You can also get in touch via our contact page or you can reach out to us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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