Chapter 8 - Tourism
   
BACKGROUND
OBJECTIVES
 
Policies and Proposals:
TOURIST FACILITIES AND ATTRACTIONS
VISITOR ACCOMMODATION
DARLINGTON RAILWAY CENTRE AND MUSEUM
   
   
 
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BACKGROUND
   
8.1 Darlington is well located to act as a base for nearby tourist destinations such as the Yorkshire and Durham Dales and the North York Moors. Whilst the Borough primarily provides a stopover location for tourists it is also linked to a network of regional attractions following the ‘Cradle of the Railways’, ‘Land of the Prince Bishops’ and ‘Christian Heritage’ themes. These themes have been developed at a regional and county level by the Northumbria Tourist Board and Durham County Council and play an important part in the region’s tourist industry. Darlington’s good location on major transport routes within easy reach of the Tyneside and Teesside conurbations also make it an ideal location for conference venues and business-related tourism.
8.2 The Borough has a number of tourist attractions catering for visitors with a variety of interests. Its industrial heritage is represented by the nationally important Railway Centre and Museum based at North Road Station on the original Stockton and Darlington Railway line, and by the Tees Cottage pumping station. The history of Darlington is illustrated at the Town Museum in Tubwell Row, and at Piercebridge a Roman Fort and Bridge have been excavated showing the importance of Dere Street and the small village during the Roman occupation. A variety of smaller attractions can also be found, for example, Elly Hill Herb Centre and Hurworth Crafts. Excellent opportunities also exist for walking and cycling in the Borough.
8.3 Continued investment in shopping, leisure and environmental improvements in the town centre, further interpretative development of the Borough’s railway, industrial, religious and Roman heritage, protection of the character of the surrounding countryside, and further improvements to transport links can potentially enhance Darlington’s tourism role.
8.4 At present, the variety of accommodation for tourists is limited, with a good range of hotels but poorer provision for campsites and caravans, self-catering and budget accommodation. It is important that a good choice of both style and price of visitor accommodation is available to suit all requirements. There is also a need to provide a range of eating establishments catering for different tastes and different budgets.
8.5 The Council provides a full time Tourist Information Centre in Horsemarket and promotes the Borough on both a regional and national level to outlines given in the Darlington Tourism Annual Report. The Plan will provide the land use framework for a proposed tourism strategy.
 
OBJECTIVES
8.6 The Council’s objectives for tourism, to be pursued through the policies and proposals of the Plan, are:
  i) To assist in the promotion of the Borough’s railway, industrial, religious and Roman heritage as a tourism resource.
  ii) To protect and enhance existing attractions and encourage appropriate new attractions within the Borough.
  iii) To ensure that tourism activities and developments should respect the scale, nature and character of their surroundings.
  iv) To encourage appropriate provision for tourists and other visitors without undue detriment to amenity and conservation interests.
 
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Policies and Proposals:
   
TOURIST FACILITIES AND ATTRACTIONS
 
POLICY TO1 - Tourist Attractions
  PROPOSALS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOURIST ATTRACTIONS WILL BE ASSESSED HAVING REGARD TO:
  1. THEIR IMPACT ON THE EXISTING CHARACTER OF THE LOCALITY;
  2. THEIR IMPACT ON RESIDENTIAL AMENITY;
  3. THE CAPACITY OF THE TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE TO ACCOMMODATE THE ADDITIONAL TRAFFIC CREATED BY THE DEVELOPMENT;
  4. WHETHER THEY CAN BE ACCESSED BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT;
  5. THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE INTERPRETATION OF THE BOROUGH’S RAILWAY, INDUSTRIAL, RELIGIOUS AND ROMAN HERITAGE.
   
8.7 Proposals for new tourist attractions will be considered having regard to policies elsewhere in the Plan, particularly those relating to the environment and transport. Such proposals could assist in promoting the town as a tourist centre and provide income-generating employment. The development of such an attraction must however respect the existing character of the Borough.
8.8 Darlington has several tourist attractions of both local and national significance which encompass the ‘Cradle of the Railways’, ‘Roman History’ and ‘Christian Heritage’ themes. With a modest base for a tourist industry the Council wishes to encourage visitors in order to promote the Borough and bring the benefits of an expanding tourist industry. The Borough’s railway heritage, the Darlington to Weardale railway line and the town centre are considered to have potential as bases for further tourist development.
8.9 Proposals for tourist development in the countryside and villages will be assessed according to other policies, particularly those for the environment, and must not result in damage to the character of the area. They will not normally be acceptable in the Area of High Landscape Value (Policy E8). Scope may exist for farm-based projects or the re-use of redundant buildings.
   
 
POLICY TO2 - Borough Heritage
  THE COUNCIL WILL ENCOURAGE THE CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION OF BUILDINGS AND SITES WHICH ARE IMPORTANT TO THE INDUSTRIAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE OF THE BOROUGH.
 
POLICY TO3 - Access to Sites of Interest
  WHERE DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS AFFECT BUILDINGS AND SITES WHICH ARE IMPORTANT TO THE INDUSTRIAL OR CULTURAL HERITAGE OF THE BOROUGH, PROVISION SHOULD BE MADE TO RETAIN EXISTING PUBLIC ACCESS. WHERE APPROPRIATE, INCREASED PUBLIC ACCESS WILL BE SOUGHT AND THE INCORPORATION OF INTERPRETATIVE FACILITIES WILL BE ENCOURAGED.
   
8.10 The industrial heritage of the Borough provides a distinctive context for the development of tourist facilities. The railway theme is an important part of the Borough’s tourist potential and so the damage to sites or loss of buildings and other features relating to it should be resisted. The trackbed of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) is an important monument to the growth of the railways and improvement of the environs of the Skerne
Bridge, one of the oldest railway bridges in the world, can complement the development of the Railway Centre and Museum (Proposals TO8 and TO9). The Council will seek conservation in the broadest sense to encompass not only stations and railway lines, but also buildings and structures associated with the early railways and the establishment of engineering in the town.
 
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8.11 Darlington’s cultural heritage plays as important a role as the railways, particularly the strong Quaker traditions of the town which helped shape much of the town’s distinctive architecture, and opportunities should not be lost to enhance this aspect of the Borough’s history. The prominence of the Pease family in the town as industrialists and Quakers and their role in the development of Darlington will also be promoted.
8.12 There are many other aspects to the Borough’s heritage which will be protected and enhanced where possible. These range from the Roman connection with Piercebridge and Dere Street through the Borough’s Christian heritage, instanced by St. Cuthbert’s Church, to the natural heritage of the Skerne Valley and Tees Valley. The Borough also has literary links with Lewis Carroll who spent his youth near Darlington.
   
   
VISITOR ACCOMMODATION
 
POLICY TO4 - Hotels and Guest Houses
  HOTELS AND GUEST HOUSES WILL BE PERMITTED WITHIN THE DEVELOPMENT LIMITS, PROVIDED THAT IN SIZE AND IN THE FORESEEABLE INTENSITY OF THEIR USE THEY:
  1. DO NOT DETRACT MATERIALLY FROM RESIDENTIAL AMENITY; AND
  2. DO NOT DETRACT MATERIALLY FROM THE CHARACTER OF THE SURROUNDING AREA.
HOTELS REQUIRING A LOCATION AT OR ADJACENT TO AN AIRPORT WILL ALSO BE PERMITTED AT TEESSIDE AIRPORT WITHIN THE AREAS IDENTIFIED IN POLICIES EP9 AND EP10.
  PROPOSALS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOURIST ATTRACTIONS WILL BE ASSESSED HAVING REGARD TO:
   
8.13 The provision of visitor accommodation is of acknowledged importance to the tourist industry of the Borough. It is, however, important that it does not adversely affect the character of the area in which it is situated. This can happen, for example, through the vehicular and other activities associated with hotel development, or the establishment of a concentration of guest houses.
8.14 The provision of hotels within the town centre encourages visitors to make longer stays in the town thus bringing greater economic and employment benefits to the Borough. It is essential therefore that sufficient facilities are available to cater for demand. The town centre development sites such as at Beaumont Street and Commercial Street are considered suitable for hotel use as well as office or other business uses (Policy EP11).
8.15 Within Darlington there is a shortage of budget hotels and further provision may also be appropriate in the business hotel market to cater for conferences. Proposals for conference venues linked to hotel developments will be encouraged. A balance must be struck between these two types of hotel in order that a range of provision for various market sectors can be provided. The employment areas at Faverdale, Yarm Road, Haughton Road and Teesside Airport provide scope for a variety of accommodation (Policies / Proposals EP2, EP3, EP4, EP9).
8.16 Away from the town centre and employment areas there may be scope for smaller establishments within the urban built-up area and the villages, provided that they comply with other policies in the Plan.
 
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POLICY TO5 - Accommodation in the Countryside
  HOTELS AND OTHER VISITOR ACCOMMODATION FORMED BY CONVERTING EXISTING BUILDINGS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE WILL BE PERMITTED PROVIDED THAT:
  1. THERE IS NO MATERIAL ADVERSE EFFECT ON THE CHARACTER OR APPEARANCE OF THE BUILDINGS OR OF THEIR SETTING;
  2. ADEQUATE AND SUITABLE ARRANGEMENTS ARE MADE FOR ACCOMMODATING TRAFFIC; AND
  3. UNDUE DISTURBANCE AFFECTING NEIGHBOURING OCCUPIERS IS AVOIDED.
   
8.17 The development of new-build hotels in the countryside is rarely acceptable because of their impact on the landscape and distance from other amenities and public transport. Any development proposals for hotels in the countryside will be assessed with particular reference to Policies E4 to E6 in order that the character and amenity of the area is preserved.
8.18 The retention of historic buildings in the countryside is desirable and their conversion to provide visitor accommodation may be acceptable as long as the architectural or historic integrity of the building or grounds is maintained and / or enhanced as part of the conversion.
8.19 Other buildings in the countryside may be suitable for conversion to visitor accommodation, but extensive rebuilding or additions to small properties to make the development viable would not be permitted. In all cases it is essential not to detract from the character of the site.
8.20 The conversion of buildings to holiday cottage or camping barn use may be acceptable as long as the character of the property is retained and the buildings are occupied solely as short stay holiday accommodation. The granting of permission will, where necessary, be subject to appropriate legal agreements limiting the period of let of such properties.
   
 
POLICY TO6 - Camping and Caravans
  THE DEVELOPMENT OF SITES IN THE COUNTRYSIDE FOR CHALETS, CAMPING, TOURING AND STATIC HOLIDAY CARAVANS AND CARAVAN STORAGE WILL NORMALLY BE PERMITTED PROVIDED THAT ALL OF THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA ARE MET:
  1. THE SITE IS NOT PROMINENT EITHER IN THE COUNTRYSIDE OR THE AREA OF HIGH LANDSCAPE VALUE NOR OF ACKNOWLEDGED NATURE CONSERVATION VALUE;
  2. THE SCHEME DOES NOT, EITHER BY ITSELF OR TOGETHER WITH OTHER EXISTING OR PERMITTED SIMILAR SCHEMES, MATERIALLY DETRACT FROM THE LANDSCAPE, NATURE CONSERVATION INTERESTS OR THE AMENITIES OF NEIGHBOURING OCCUPIERS;
  3. THE SCHEME IS COMPREHENSIVELY PLANNED ON A SITE WHERE TREES OR OTHER SCREENING COMPATIBLE WITH THE LANDSCAPE ADEQUATELY CONCEAL PERMANENT DEVELOPMENT THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. WHERE THE TREE COVER GIVES EFFECTIVE SCREENING ONLY WHEN IN LEAF, TOURING CARAVANS, TENTS AND ASSOCIATED FACILITIES MAY BE ACCEPTABLE PROVIDED THAT THEY ARE REMOVED AT THE END OF EACH SUMMER SEASON;
  4. FREESTANDING CHALETS, CARAVANS OR TENTS ARE CONCEALED IN WOODLAND OR WITHIN ESTABLISHED GROUPS OF BUILDINGS;
  5. THE DESIGN, MATERIALS AND COLOUR OF CHALETS AND STATIC CARAVANS ARE CHOSEN TO MERGE WITH THE SURROUNDINGS.
 
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8.21 Further diversity in accommodation can be achieved through the provision of caravan and campsites within the Borough. There is at present a shortage of such provision, especially touring sites.
8.22 It is essential that any development is carefully sited in order that the attractive nature of the countryside, so often the primary reason for visits to the Borough, is not spoilt thus losing one of Darlington’s prime assets. Sites should be compact and unobtrusive.
8.23 Any development proposals for camping and caravan sites will be assessed with particular regard to Policies E4, E5, E6, E23, T12 and T13.
8.24 Much screening can be achieved through the use of trees although the loss of leaf cover may expose to view otherwise prominent sites. Due to the loss of leaf cover during winter, sites which rely extensively on summer only tree screening will be expected to remove vans to other storage areas to preserve the visual amenity of the area throughout the year. Static caravan sites and permanent chalet developments will be expected to provide year round screening appropriate to the locality (Policies E4, E7 and E14).
   
 
POLICY TO7 - Laybys, Picnic and Rest Areas
  THE PROVISION OF LAYBYS, PICNIC AND REST AREAS MAY BE PERMITTED IN UNOBTRUSIVE LOCATIONS ON OR ADJACENT TO THE MAIN ROAD NETWORK IN THE RURAL AREA WHERE THIS IS ACHIEVABLE WITHOUT DETRIMENT TO RESIDENTIAL AMENITY, LANDSCAPE QUALITY OR NATURE CONSERVATION INTERESTS.
   
8.25 A number of main roads through the Borough, particularly the A68, are important tourist routes, and the provision of modest roadside facilities may be acceptable in unobtrusive locations. The provision of laybys and rest areas may also be appropriate close to buildings and sites which are important to the industrial and cultural heritage of the Borough, such as the Stockton and Darlington Railway trackbed. Highway improvements often provide suitable opportunities for this provision on areas of discarded carriageway.
8.26 The facilities envisaged may include tourist information boards, interpretative maps and information relating to items of interest in the immediate area.
   
   
DARLINGTON RAILWAY CENTRE AND MUSEUM
 
PROPOSAL TO8 - Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
  LAND AND BUILDINGS AT NORTH ROAD STATION WILL CONTINUE TO BE DEVELOPED FOR DARLINGTON RAILWAY CENTRE AND MUSEUM USES AND OTHER USES RELATED TO THE RAILWAY AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE AREA.
   
8.27 The site at North Road is of national railway importance and has been developed to provide a railway museum within the train-shed and building of the old station. The Skerne Bridge (a scheduled ancient monument) and the Stockton and Darlington Railway trackbed (now recognised nationally) are in the immediate vicinity. The existing passenger rail service uses a platform adjacent to the museum also within the original station train-shed. There is a proposal to provide a replacement platform outside the station building to enable further development of the museum (Proposal T46)
 
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8.28 Several substantial S&DR structures exist within the grounds of the station. One is currently in use as a workshop for overhauling preserved rolling stock. Another, the Stockton and Darlington Railway Carriage Works, provides a headquarters and workshops for the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, which is building the first mainline steam locomotive in Britain since 1960.
 
PROPOSAL TO9 - Darlington Railway Centre Trackbed
  THE TRACKBED OF THE FORMER BARNARD CASTLE BRANCH LINE WILL BE SAFEGUARDED BETWEEN DARLINGTON RAILWAY CENTRE AND WEST AUCKLAND ROAD TO ENABLE THE REINSTATEMENT OF TRACK AND THE RUNNING OF TRAINS OVER A LENGTH OF DEMONSTRATION LINE.
   
8.29 Railway track remains in existence as far as the site of the former UKF depot, and a siding exists between the current running lines and the former Whessoe site off Brinkburn Road. Although the trackbed from the former UKF siding to the West Auckland Road coal depot is used exclusively as a footpath at present, there is sufficient space to accommodate a railway track in addition. There is also sufficient space at West Auckland Road for a small terminus station and car park.