A Dorset National Park could add millions of pounds to Dorset's rural economy.
A study by Kyle Dyett, Professor Davide Parrilli and Dr Ishmael Tingbani at Bournemouth University has concluded that a Dorset National Park could add considerable value to the county's economy including through stimulating additional annual visitor spend worth several million pounds. It notes that the marketing power and international brand recognition of a National Park would help extend the visitor season and benefit the economy across Dorset.
Though future funding levels can never be guaranteed, it suggests that a Dorset National Park could secure similar funding to the South Downs National Park. The South Downs has secured over £100m since it came into being in 2011. National Park core funding from the Government could free up local authority resources for other rural priorities.
The report says: "National Parks sustain the natural environment and capital of their areas whilst also contributing to local communities, visitor enjoyment and their local economies. Our research particularly identified their role in expanding tourism. This links with their duty to promote the understanding and enjoyment of their areas." Recent studies show that while NPs do not necessarily increase visitor numbers (or hence their impact on existing infrastructure), "there is an increase in visitor spend, (tourists stay longer and spend more) thereby increasing tourism's value to the NP and its communities…. Empirical evidence also suggests that the value of NPs goes beyond increased economic activity to include health and well-being."
The study concludes that a Dorset National Park would form part of a strategic investment which would bring significant benefits to the area. It would help Dorset become more resilient by promoting investment, employment and skills, and value-added tourism.
Andrew Knowles, the President of the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, said: "Tourism is crucial to the economy of our area. If a Dorset National Park can help put Dorset more on the international tourism map and increase the value of tourism to our local economy, as this report suggests, then that would be a real bonus."
Councillor Chris Spackman from Sturminster Newton said: "Sturminster Newton Town Council wishes to be included in the proposed Dorset National Park. In particular we see the increased economic value this could bring - including through additional tourism spend and government funding. This study supports that view. We look forward to Natural England carrying out their next evaluation as soon as possible in 2018 so we can all be better informed."
The Dorset National Park Team has welcomed the government's commitment in its recent 25 Year Environment Plan to "Conserve and enhance the natural beauty of our landscapes by reviewing National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) for the 21st century, including assessing whether more may be needed." Richard Brown, a member of the Dorset National Park team said: "Dorset's case for National Park designation is strong and amply demonstrated, as evidence and studies on our website show. We look forward to Natural England's further assessment of the proposal later this year, and to working with local councils and communities, as well as with Natural England and DEFRA, to bring the Dorset National Park opportunity to fruition as soon as possible."