Planning matters

Our award winning blog gives a fresh perspective on the latest trends in planning and development.

Investing in tourism

Rachel Davies 05 Oct 2016
Prime Minster Theresa May has reiterated the importance of tourism to the UK (‘Tourism Action Plan’ August 2016). The industry provides 1.6 million jobs across the country and 2015 saw a record number of overseas visits to the UK, bringing £22.1 billion into the economy. Domestic trips also hit a record high of £19.6 billion in England alone. Mrs May states:“In short, the sector goes from strength to strength.” However, London captures over 50% of spending from overseas visitors therefore there is work to do to encourage visitors to explore the whole of the UK.Mrs May identifies that the decision to leave the European Union (EU) creates opportunities for growth by “cutting red tape and forging partnerships in new and developing markets”. The Prime Minister’s statement concludes with the comment that the Government will work to ensure that tourism continues to thrive as negotiations on the UK’s exit progress. So what is the Government’s Action Plan for Tourism? The Government appears to be committed to working in partnership, to ensure the industry continues to flourish – the measures outlined include: Creating an overarching industrial strategy – seeking to ensure that departmental action to grow tourism is co-ordinated and establishing a clear framework of government support and activity that will make it easier for local areas to develop their own strategies to grow tourism, and for businesses to take investment decisions. Jobs and skills – the Government is committed to increasing the quality and quantity of apprenticeships. A new pilot apprenticeship scheme has been launched which recognises the seasonal nature of the tourism sector and enables apprentices to complete their training over 16-18 months, with a break in the middle to undertake other activities. The Government will work with the Tourism Industry Council to promote the tourism sector as a great place to build a career and improve perceptions of the industry. Common-sense regulation – four areas of regulation are identified as those areas where progress can be made to allow tourism businesses to flourish; the deregulation of an element of Private Hire Vehicle licences, the introduction of new, light-touch licencing notice; looking at how to modernise and digitise the retail export scheme; and considering raising the threshold for ‘occasional or very limited financial activity’. Transport – seeking to help overseas visitors feel confident exploring outside London. The Government is working to develop a new ‘GREAT Rail’ offer which will start with piloting overseas up to five, easy to book, rail itineraries. Further steps are being taking to modernise transport connections to the countryside, for example, the Government’s £15 billion road investment strategy. ‘GREAT Welcome’ – the Government has capped visitor visa fee rises at 2% per annum; it is also seeking to raise awareness of the UK’s tourism offer by improving the availability of information through the UKVI website and visa application centres. What the Government’s Tourism Action Plan lacks is an acknowledgment of the vital role of the planning system in which the country’s destinations and attractions operate. It is a very positive step for the Government to set about enhancing apprenticeship schemes and promoting the significant value of tourism jobs; however, local planning authorities (and their councillors) also need to fully recognise all of the benefits of their own local visitor economies and take such matters into consideration in the planning balance when determining applications for cultural, leisure and tourism development.NLP has been advising some of the country’s largest tourism operators and attractions since the mid-1980s, including Merlin Entertainments and Bourne Leisure. We have secured a wide range of culture, tourism and leisure-related planning permissions for our clients - from museum extensions, to hotels and lodge accommodation, to new, refurbished and extended rides, attractions and facilities.At NLP we have been assessing, evaluating and presenting the economic, social and environmental benefits of development for a number of years; despite the success of the tourism and leisure sector, demonstrating the importance and value of the industry and its attractions/destinations to planning officers and councillors in their own areas is a key element of making the case for development.To help the tourism, culture and leisure sector go from strength to strength and help give businesses and other organisations the confidence they need to invest, local planning policies need to recognise the importance and value of tourism in their particular council area. Development plan policies should provide a broad framework for tourism development which is supportive, or at least neutral, taking into account other relevant considerations (many attractions are located in sensitive areas with heritage, landscape designations etc.). The planning system should be integral to any national or local tourism strategy, as without the certainty that a sound policy provides, important attractions are deterred from investing to ensure the continued success of the sector. In a sector with many smaller companies/businesses, the planning system has to be proactive, putting in place a national and local policy basis, both in planning and in tourism strategies. The Government wants to encourage visitors to explore the whole of the UK, which will require a range of overnight accommodation for guests. And attractions also need the certainty to be confident to invest, to ensure they provide appropriate facilities for visitors. Altogether, the new Government Plan requires a national policy approach to planning for tourism which is currently absent. In that absence, the Plan requires a quick and informed response from the planning sector to ensure that tourism, leisure and cultural attractions and visitor facilities can be delivered to meet its objectives, as well as current trends and demands.Over the next year, the World Travel and Tourism Council is predicting growth in the sector of 3.6% in the UK, higher than the predicted global growth rate of 3.1%[1]. The weak pound means that the UK is an attractive destination for many overseas visitors and it may well also lead to the rise of the ‘staycation’ for UK residents[2]. Therefore there are great opportunities which can be capitalised on following ‘Brexit’, but in these uncertain times, cultural, leisure and tourism attractions need certainty in the policy context to give the confidence needed to invest. The Government should be doing everything it can to encourage efficient and effective planning, introducing national planning policies and promoting the same at the local level, alongside its ‘Tourism Action Plan’. [1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37155279[2] https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2016/aug/03/brexit-british-tourism-industry-benefit-pound  

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GENDER GAP/GDP

GENDER GAP/GDP

Francesco Mellino 03 Oct 2016
It started as a seemingly innocuous matter of curiosity in the NLP office – a pub quiz question, almost[1]: What share of the global economic output is produced in the world’s 10 richest countries? Has this increased or decreased in the last 50 years? Some guesses were made so we looked at the data to check if anyone was right (no one was, although this was blamed on the data being patchy).For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen[2].However, still thinking about interesting trends in the world’s 10 richest countries, while admittedly being influenced by the appointment of a new UK Prime Minister and one of the candidates in the upcoming US elections, another question came up in conversation: How many of the world’s 10 richest countries have been governed by a female political leader? Not many, we guessed. Then we thought that it would be nice, albeit depressing, to visualise just how many. Courtesy of our outstanding (and patient) Graphics team, the resulting infographic was used as NLP’s submission to the 2016 Information Is Beautiful Awards, where it was included in the longlist. You can see it below. It’s an A1 poster: you may want to click here to see a larger version. Some interesting findings on the left-hand side of the infographic, in no particular order: The share of the world’s economy produced in the 10 richest countries has decreased over the years – from 87% in 1960 to 66% in 2015. We found this was still a substantial figure, but an encouraging one. 9 out of the 10 richest countries in 1960 are still in the top 10 in 2015 – Russia (then, the USSR) lost its spot, Brazil entered – but there has been plenty of movement with the likes of Mexico and Spain making an appearance in the chart over the years. Comparing the share of the world’s GDP to the share of the world’s population in the group of the 10 richest countries leads to very inconsistent results. When China and India are in the group, the ratio seem fairly balanced (e.g. in 2015 the group accounts for 66% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s population); when they aren’t, the concentration of global wealth in not-highly-populated countries appears stark (e.g. in 1990 73% of the world’s GDP was produced by 19% of the world’s population). Some remarks on the right-hand side: The world’s richest economies have a very poor record of appointing female leaders. Out of the 143 changes in leadership[3] that happened in these countries between 1960 and 2015 (only when they were among the 10 richest in the world), just 8 involved a female leader. Over the 550 years of analysis, female leaders have governed for fewer than 47 years. This is a remarkably bad ratio of 8 years of female leadership for every 92 of male leaders for a world population, despite women having consistently made up around or slightly less than 50% of the world’s population since 1960[4]. The number of changes in political leaders does not correlate with the number of female leaders – we were not expecting it would, but it was worth checking: whenever there is a change of leader, one would expect that the newly appointed one has the same chances of being male or female. However, the countries that change political leaders most often, Japan and Italy, have never had a female leader. Gender equality is down to many things, but chance is not one of them. In conclusion, our analysis shows that the world is a relatively less unequal place in terms of wealth (although we appreciate we did not look into individuals’ wealth, but that of countries). And while there have been improvements in gender equality for a great number of metrics in recent years, we thought it was important to show that we still have a long way to go. [1] We do attend rather geeky pub quizzes, but aren’t all pub quizzes that are worth attending geeky?[2] Well spotted, galactic hitchhikers.[3] By “change in leader”, it was considered the instance in which a President/Prime Minister replaces another. This does not always correspond to a change in Government.[4] World Bank, Databank, Gender Statistics. For reference, the world’s population female-to-male ratio was 49.5:50.5 in 2015 and 50:50 in 1960.  

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