The purpose of the report is to introduce the Tourism Hospitality & Visitor Economy Study to the Economy Committee, and to advise, and seek approval from members of the next steps for the implementation of the recommendations by the Business and Economy Group Team.
The Chair invited the Group Head of Business and Economy to provide members with an overview of the report after which he then invited members to make comment or ask questions of the officer.
It was asked what level of input the team had regarding Planning Applications received by the council. Specifically, the recent applications for Pier Road relating to the Nelson Hotel and Riverbreeze Restaurant and the proposed change of use from Commercial to residential. It was confirmed that the teams opportunities to comment on Planning Applications were the same as everyone else, in that they are able to make comment on change of use. She went on to explain that the whole point of the study was that it would help to support and protect the districts tourism sector moving forward. It was also advised that the key issues were surrounded by Planning Policy, hence the consultation that took place with the Planning Policy Committee last year. The council had enquiries from hotels all the time and that it was the Group Head’s role to direct those individuals to the right owners of the property or land.
It was asked when the strategy was last updated and how much would it cost for it to be updated? It was confirmed that the last Tourism Strategy was produced in 2011, however, costs could not be predicted at the moment as the council would go out to an external specialist for this work to be completed. It was hoped that the costs could be taken from this year’s budget rather than next years, should it be able to quickly agree the work with an appointed specialist. Additionally, it was stated by one member that they were not persuaded that there was a demand of hotels given the number that were on the market currently. He believed that first there needed to be something to attract visitors to the area and he suggested that two plans were needed, a local plan (which was already in place) and a regeneration masterplan. The Council had one of these in 2004 and it was important to have to have a clear overarching strategy.
Discussion surrounding recommendation 2.3 was had, specifically regarding the sum of money the council received for artwork in the district. It was stated that there had been one meeting 4 years ago but nothing else had been heard on the matter. It was suggested that the council could invest in putting decent artwork on roundabouts, to make the roads more inviting to visitors of Littlehampton. It was believed that there was an up-hill struggle to market Arun as it was “just not on the map”. The report showed that the district does have everything it needs to be inviting to tourists and that the council should be able to come up with something that encapsulates all of what was here, in a better way.
There was also discussion on Eco Lodges and the increasing popularity of these. It was felt that the council had missed a trick on this topic, especially given the sale of the Caravan site on Littlehampton Road a few years ago. It was felt that this could have been an opportunity to create revenue. A suggestion of an Officer and Member Working Group was made to look at this in more detail. The Group Head confirmed that there were ways in which stakeholder engagement could be improved and this could be one of them. The Chair and Councillor Northeast expressed their interest in being involved in the working group, should they be re-elected at the Election in May 2023.
A non-member of the committee was invited to speak where he raised a number of points and opportunities that he believed should be considered by the team and committee. The Group Head confirmed that she was familiar with a number of items mentioned by the member and that the consultation process for these would provide opportunities for these to be formally put forward.
Clarity was sought regarding the report completed in 2011 and was this the previous Arun Leisure and Culture report. It was confirmed no, and would not be found on the website now as it was out of date. Another member asked if a copy of the Blue Sail Strategy completed in 2020 could be shared with members.
The recommendations were then proposed by Councillor Cooper and seconded by Councillor Chace.
2.1. To produce a refreshed ‘Visitor Economy Strategy’
2.2. To investigate opportunities for active partnership in delivering visitor accommodation, and;
2.3. To continue to seek investment in public realm, the seafront, and in key infrastructure.