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TLR1  Principles For Tourism Development  Strategic Policy

Proposals for tourist attractions and visitor facilities should be directed towards urban areas outside the primarily residential area, and especially to:

(i) the existing resorts of New Brighton and West Kirby;

(ii) the central and commercial areas of Birkenhead; and

(iii) land along the Wirral waterfront and in other urban coastal locations.

Tourist attractions and visitor facilities outside the urban areas will be restricted to facilities which can be accommodated within an existing building and to uses of open land which preserve the openness of the green belt.

Reasoned justification :

10.1 Tourism is difficult to define. However, in this Section of the UDP it is taken to include proposals which fall outside the normal categories of sport, recreation or retail uses but which are nevertheless intended to cater for a substantial number of visitors from a wider than local catchment area and especially to proposals which are likely to attract visitors from outside the Borough.

10.2 The vast majority of visits to attractions in Wirral are for pleasure and are related to visits to friends and family. The predominant form of local tourism is, therefore, the day or half-day trip, for which the local catchment area has been estimated to include over two million people. It is particularly important that the quality of local attractions and their immediate environment is protected and enhanced if Wirral is to continue to attract visitors in significant numbers with the attendant benefits to the local economy.

10.3 National planning policy guidance encourages local planning authorities to indicate the broad location of areas where tourist activities are to be encouraged, expanded or restrained. Policy TLR1, therefore, sets out the strategic principles that the Local Planning Authority will use in order to guide future tourist-related investment. It also provides the basis for the more specific policies and proposals contained within Part Two of the UDP. In general terms, new tourist development will be directed towards the existing urban area and will be specifically encouraged in three main urban locations. While visitor facilities will not be excluded altogether from the Borough's more rural areas they are to be strictly controlled.

10.4 A concentration on urban tourism is largely dictated by the urban regeneration strategy outlined within the Secretary of State's Strategic Guidance for Merseyside but also arises from the nature and scale of much tourist activity. While the land-use planning problems generated by such uses are not necessarily any different from similar types of commercial-based development seeking to attract and accommodate large numbers of visitors, those involving a high proportion of new buildings are generally more suitable within urban locations. For similar reasons, such uses are also rarely suitable in residential areas and should normally be located with development of the same general nature and which will give rise to similar types of development impact.

10.5 Tourism has been identified as one of the fastest areas of travel growth. National planning policy now requires local planning authorities to ensure that major new attractions are located in order to be readily accessible to a full range of means of transport and not just to the private car. Such uses are, in these terms, clearly more suitable to existing urban locations in town centres and other locations already well served by public transport. Policy TLR1, therefore, specifically seeks to encourage and direct new tourist-related development and large scale visitor attractions to urban commercial areas.

10.6 Of the three types of area where tourist activity is to be promoted, New Brighton and West Kirby are already established coastal resorts attracting significant numbers of visitors from the Borough and from throughout the wider sub-region. Both are still popular but show signs of decline. This has in the past been more marked within New Brighton, and is directly reflected in the main core of the resort being designated within the area to be regenerated by the Merseyside Development Corporation. Environmental improvements and new development has already taken place but both resorts still require such initiatives to be continued and consolidated throughout the UDP period.

10.7 Birkenhead, with its historical associations, still retains an important role as a focus for visitors to the area. The central and commercial areas, outside the Primarily Residential Area, continue to be logical areas for new tourist development. They combine the benefits of a busy, town centre location with its existing attractions and well established provision for car parking and public transport. However, Wirral Waterfront now represents the "shop window" for tourism on Wirral.

10.8 Wirral Waterfront provides the entrance to Wirral for many visitors arriving on the Ferries at Woodside or Seacombe and is the area most directly viewed across the River from the Pier Head and from riverside routes in Liverpool. Facilities within this area can complement attractions in Liverpool and maximise the advantages of a well established tourist industry on the opposite bank of the Mersey. It, therefore, represents the area of greatest potential for tourism growth as part of the wider re-development of the area.

This may also include other urban coastal areas and incorporate smaller scale projects, for example, along the frontage to Seacombe Promenade or at riverside sites in Bromborough and Eastham related to the Country Park and development projects within the Wirral International Business Park.

10.9 In contrast to the urban areas, building in the open countryside is to be carefully controlled in accordance with national policies. It is also recognised that the countryside is not an appropriate location for uses which are more suitable within an urban area. Nevertheless, visits to the countryside are significant for local tourism, and countryside recreation in particular is increasing in importance. Tourism can provide for diversification in the rural economy and can be accommodated in so far as the scale, location and impact of such uses can be kept within acceptable limits.

10.10 The approach set out within Policy TLR1 is, therefore, to ensure that new uses are appropriate to the rural area in general and to the objectives of Green Belt designation in particular.