In the News: Planning for a tourist attraction

Written by: Colin Marrs
Published on: 5 Jul 2016

Dan Mitchell Barton WillmoreProposals to turn the Humber Bridge into a major tourist attraction - including a visitor centre and a hotel - have been submitted to East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Dan Mitchell is planning partner at planning consultancy Barton Willmore, which submitted the plans on behalf of Humber Bridge Board.

Q. How did this application land on your desk?

As a practice, Barton Willmore has done a lot of work in Hull and East Riding over the years, including an urban expansion, a logistics park and an office park near the bridge. We have known this area for a long time.

I was asked to get involved personally both due to my knowledge of the area but also my wider experience of leisure and commercial projects elsewhere. I dealt with the expansion of Chester Zoo, which has similar characteristics as a visitor attraction.

Q. What makes a visitor attraction different in planning terms?

You need to understand visitor catchments and what drives people to attend, as well as the funding models behind that work. You have to understand that when a visitor comes to an attraction, their experience starts in the car park and ends at the café or shop. You have to translate that overarching experience into a planning document and planning argument.

Often, as was the case here, these schemes are not included in local plans, and they are outside town centres. Because it is an out of settlement location in the open countryside, we had to justify the development on the grounds of the wider social and economic benefits not just job creation but also in terms of visitor spend in the economy.

Q. What were the other challenges involved?

There is a hotel and office component, so had to go through a sequential impact test to justify this development.

Traffic was less of an issue – tourism traffic tends to impact after peak time and visits are staggered throughout the day. There were some ecology issues as the Humber Estuary is has protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has Ramsar wetlands protection. We also had a series of design team meetings to deal with the technical and engineering issues thrown up by building the centre while ensuring the ongoing operation of the bridge.

Q. When will a decision be made on the application?

We are hoping to get to planning committee in the early autumn. If it goes through then construction will start straight away and should be completed within 15 months.