17 December 2012
Northumberland National Park Authority unveils plans to support tourism in northern valleys and Cheviot Hills
At the National Park Authority meeting today, members of the Authority approved a wide-ranging plan to help retain the essential quality of information provision and visitor welcome to the northern valleys and Cheviot Hills.
The plan has been developed following the recent closure of the National Park’s visitor centres at Ingram and Rothbury in the wake of a 30 per cent budget cut over the three years to 2014. The centres were kept open for as long as possible while extensive efforts were made to find alternative means of delivering the services, and whilst discussions, including partners, the community and businesses, are ongoing, the Authority has moved to put in place some alternative visitor provision for the coming season. However, following a two year period of detailed negotiations a solution has not been found and the Authority made the difficult decision in September not to reopen the two visitor centres from March 2013.
Amongst a wide array of planned activity, the Authority approved measures in the short term to:
- Ensure visitors can orientate and guide themselves to places of interest by providing road signs, on site information boards and enhanced interpretation at business sites and National Park car parks.
- Enhance existing information points, which are located in local tea rooms, cafes and shops, and seek new partnership sites.
- Develop a new cadre of volunteers as a “National Park Welcome Team”, with a view to being out and about in the Park at favourite stopping points to assist visitors during the season.
- ‘Enhanced’ information points will be developed and local business Ambassadors will be sought and trained to orientate, inform and inspire visitors about the National Park;
- Partnerships will be explored with local groups such as village hall committees with the view to providing out-of-hours visitor information and temporary exhibitions;
- New innovation in IT information provision, such as digital, mobile and social media, will be explored to provide ‘Park in your Pocket’ information
Chairman of the National Park Authority, John Riddle, emphasised that the Authority was mindful of the concern that communities in the north of the Park and regular visitors to the National Park were feeling at the closure of the two visitor centres, he said:
“In the short term we will continue to discuss, with any interested party, options for alternative delivery of the services provided from our two visitor centres at Rothbury and Ingram. If there remains any viable alternative we will be happy to explore them. Meanwhile, the Authority feels it is important to take action to put alternative measures in place in time for the 2013 visitor season and in the medium term explore ways of mitigating the impact of the closures.”