Central Lincolnshire Local Plan Review - Proposed Submission Local Plan

Proposed Submission Local Plan

7 Tourism and Visitor Economy

7.0.1 Central Lincolnshire, with historic Lincoln at its core, has a thriving, growing, visitor economy with visitors arriving for education, business and leisure purposes. Alongside historic Lincoln and its cathedral and castle, there are a number of significant visitor economy assets within the city, including its annual Christmas Market. Central Lincolnshire also has a draw for its aviation history, access to the open countryside (including the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and the Lincolnshire Showground. The Employment Needs Assessment (ENA) (2020) sets out that between 2012 and 2018 the number of people employed in ‘Accommodation and Food Service’ jobs has risen by 36%. Linked to this as a sector that attracts visitors to the area, jobs in the ‘arts, entertainment, recreation and other services’ have increased by 47%.  Further growth is also predicted within the ENA for both jobs sectors.

7.1 Sustainable Urban Tourism

7.1.1 The Greater Lincolnshire Local Economic Partnership (GLLEP) draft Local Industrial Strategy Evidence Base (November 2019) shows that visitor economy based jobs are distributed across Greater Lincolnshire, with concentrations in Lincoln, Louth (the Wolds) and on the coast at Cleethorpes and north of Skegness. This concentration around Lincoln totals around 6,200 jobs across restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, hotels and attractions themselves. It is clear that there are also other pockets or concentrations of visitor economy jobs across the Central Lincolnshire area.

7.1.2 Lincoln is one of England’s key heritage cities, and the principal visitor destination in Central Lincolnshire. It attracts over 3 million visitors a year, generating over £190 million and supporting 2,000 jobs. Lincoln’s Cathedral and Cultural Quarters, along with the High Street and Brayford Waterfront provide a variety of visitor attractions within a relatively compact area. These range from the Castle and Cathedral, to art galleries and lesser known attractions such as the Cheese Society and Arboretum.

7.1.3 Lincoln is not a seasonal destination, it is busy all year round, with visitor accommodation, especially hotels, enjoying year-round occupancy. The continuing growth in population, investment by businesses, fast growing universities and investment in and rejuvenation of tourist destinations will continue to attract increasing numbers of visitors to the area. Within Lincoln room occupancy rates are very high (80%) with hotels frequently full and turning business away.

7.1.4 Outside of Lincoln, within Gainsborough, Sleaford and the Market Towns, there are also a number, albeit generally smaller, visitor attractions such as Market Rasen Racecourse, Gainsborough Old Hall, and the Hub (the National Centre for Craft and Design) and Cogglesford Mill at Sleaford.

7.1.5 The Hotel Fact File prepared on behalf of the GLLEP identifies that while the most significant supply of hotels is in Lincoln, Sleaford and Gainsborough have a very limited provision. The report identifies that priority for hotel development within Lincoln is the development of luxury boutique hotels to complement the existing and planned budget, 3 and 4 star hotels, and to provide comparable accommodation to that available in similar heritage city destinations. Within Sleaford and Gainsborough, it is identified that there is potential for hotel developments to take place as part of wider development and regeneration. The provision of a sufficient level and range of holiday accommodation is essential for supporting the contribution made by the tourism sector to the local economy.

7.1.6 It is important to note that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the tourism and visitor economy significantly and it will be important to monitor its recovery in the coming years. Policy S42 aims to encourage sustainable growth in the urban visitor economy and provides a positive framework for strengthening the visitor economy in the area to assist in it rebounding from the recent challenges resulting from Covid-19.

Policy S42: Sustainable Urban Tourism

Within the urban areas of Lincoln, Gainsborough, Sleaford and the Market Towns development and activities that will deliver high quality sustainable visitor facilities such as culture and leisure facilities, sporting attractions and visitor accommodation, including proposals for temporary permission in support of the promotion of events and festivals, will be supported. Such development and activities should be designed so that they:

  1. contribute to the local economy;
  2. benefit both local communities and visitors;
  3. respect the intrinsic natural and built environmental qualities of the area; and
  4. are appropriate for the character of the local environment in scale and nature.

Development proposals which result in the loss of facilities or attractions that support the visitor economy, including hotels and guesthouses, will not be permitted unless:

  1. there are overriding sustainability and regeneration benefits from the proposal; or
  2. the existing use is demonstrated to be unviable and with no reasonable prospect of becoming viable; or
  3. the facility has been appropriately marketed for a continuous period of 12 months or more without successful conclusion on terms that reflect the lawful use and condition of the premises – this evidence will be considered in the context of the local market conditions and state of the wider national economy.



Within Lincoln the focus of tourism developments should be on the Cathedral and Cultural Quarters and the High Street and Brayford Waterfront areas in order to complement and support existing attractions. Proposals in other parts of the Lincoln Urban Area that satisfies criteria a)-d) above and will not detract from or otherwise harm existing tourism offer of the city will be supported. 

7.2 Sustainable Rural Tourism

7.2.1 Tourism naturally extends beyond the urban areas of Lincoln, Gainsborough, Sleaford and the market towns. Rural Central Lincolnshire also makes a significant contribution to the visitor economy. Many visitors are attracted to the waterways, walking and cycling routes, the many aviation and other attractions across the area. Others are attracted by the rich RAF history which includes the International Bomber Command Centre, or to other rural historic attractions such as Doddington Hall.  In addition, a number of key road routes to the East Coast run through Central Lincolnshire, providing the opportunity for additional visitor spend from through traffic stopping within the area.

7.2.2 The Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a popular visitor destination for walking, cycling and outdoor pursuits. The AONB extends into Central Lincolnshire between Market Rasen and Caistor, and is surrounded by a locally designated Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV).

7.2.3 Visitor pressure is not evenly spread across Central Lincolnshire, and this is particularly the case across the rural area, with some areas being distinct ‘honey pots’. Within the rural area intensive tourism and leisure uses, including static caravans, will typically be discouraged, in order to protect the countryside from inappropriate development, in accordance with other policies in this plan.  Regard will also be given to the cumulative impacts of tourism and recreation proposals on landscape character, nature conservation value and local transport movements.

7.2.4 Small-scale development of new visitor facilities and accommodation appropriate to their surroundings will be supported within the villages. These settlements already provide many services used by residents and visitors and together with their access by public transport make them more sustainable locations for tourism developments, and less likely to have impacts on the landscape and natural beauty of the area.

7.2.5 Ecotourism, defined as visiting fragile, pristine and relatively undisturbed natural areas, has seen an increase globally in recent years. It is intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to mass tourism. Ecotourism involves responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment and improving the well-being of local people. Proposals for tourism development that will result in improved biodiversity and green infrastructure, will be particularly welcomed if it can be demonstrated that they do not increase the risk of unacceptable disturbance, directly or indirectly, of sensitive wildlife sites. Wildlife activities or ‘Nature Tourism’ will be encouraged and supported, in principle, in both rural and urban areas.

7.2.6 Rural Central Lincolnshire has a range of tourist accommodation in the form of Bed & Breakfasts, self-catering cottages, lodges, and caravan, camping and glamping sites. In order to protect the rural area, the central Lincolnshire authorities would not wish to see a prevalence of any particular type of visitor accommodation in any one area.

7.2.7 While seeking to ensure that a diverse range of accommodation is available across the area to cater for demand from visitors, it will also be necessary to ensure that it is in the most appropriate locations that do not detract from the natural beauty of the rural area. It will also be necessary to ensure that accommodation remains available in the future for visitors and does not become occupied for full-time residential use. Planning conditions or legal agreements will be used to ensure that occupation of new self-catering accommodation is limited, and registers of lettings (to include names and addresses of all occupants of units for each letting) will be required to be kept and made available on request to the Local Planning Authority.

7.2.8 Developments that, while tourism related, are clearly farm diversification projects will be considered against Policy S5: Development in the Countryside.

Policy S43: Sustainable Rural Tourism

Development proposals within villages named in the Settlement Hierarchy in Policy S1 that will deliver high quality sustainable visitor facilities including (but not limited to) visitor accommodation, sporting attractions, and also including proposals for temporary permission in support of the promotion of events and festivals, will be supported where they:

  1. contribute to the local economy;
  2. benefit both local communities and visitors;
  3. respect the intrinsic natural and built environmental qualities of the area;
  4. are appropriate for the character of the local environment in scale, nature and appearance; and
  5. would not result in highway safety or severe traffic impacts.

Development proposals for tourism uses, wildlife related tourism and visitor accommodation in the countryside will only be supported where it has been demonstrated that:

  1. part E of Policy S5 has been satisfied; or
  2. locations within settlements are unsuitable for the scale and nature of the proposal or there is an overriding benefit to the local, or wider, economy and/or community and/or environment for locating away from such built up areas and the proposal will not result in harm when considered against other policies in the plan; or
  3. it relates to an existing visitor facility which is seeking redevelopment or expansion and is of a scale, form and design appropriate to its location.


New visitor accommodation in the countryside may be restricted by means of planning conditions or a legal agreement which permits holiday use only.

The conversion or redevelopment of hotels and guest houses and any other forms visitor accommodation to permanent residential accommodation will be resisted unless it can be demonstrated that the existing tourism use is no longer viable through a thorough and proportionate marketing exercise lasting not less than 12 months.

7.3 Lincolnshire Showground

7.3.1 The Lincolnshire Showground is an important asset not only to Central Lincolnshire but the County as a whole, attracting large numbers of visitors at certain times of the year. Development to complement the principle use of the site for shows could help to:

  • sustain the showground as one of the key agricultural show venues in the UK;
  • augment the range of events and services leading to increased overnight stays in the area that will benefit the local visitor economy; and
  • contribute to the GLLEP vision of doubling the economic value of the agri-food sector in Greater Lincolnshire by 2030.

7.3.2 The Lincolnshire Showground (together with the Hemswell Cliff Business Park) was identified in 2015 as a strategic site to support the development of a food and farming Enterprise Zone. It lies adjacent to the A15, which forms the main North / South road corridor between Lincoln, Scunthorpe and the Humber Bridge.

7.3.3 Due to the strategic importance of the Showground, and the wider implications of any development on the site, it is considered appropriate for this Local Plan to both identify the site on the Policies Map, and set out in policy, below, the strategic proposals for the site.

Policy S44: Lincolnshire Showground

The following development within the Lincolnshire Showground area, as defined on the Policies Map, will be supported in principle:

  • A hotel (C1 Use Class) (up to 100 beds);
  • Expansion of Agricultural College functions (C2 Use Class) (up to 8,000 sqm);
  • Facilities directly related to the functioning of shows on the showground itself;
  • Conference facilities (E Use Class) (up to 4,000 sqm);
  • Employment related development (E Use Class) (up to 3,500 sqm);
  • Other minor ancillary development linked to the above uses.

All such proposals should demonstrate their compatibility to the main showground use. Proposals which would negatively impact on the scale of shows which could be accommodated on the showground will be refused.

Particular attention should be given to:

  1. ensuring the proposals have no detrimental impact on the functioning of infrastructure;
  2. the careful design, layout, scale and height of buildings, taking account of the otherwise rural character in which the showground area is located; and
  3. improving linkages, by sustainable means, to the Lincoln urban area.

A masterplan prepared in advance of any significant proposals would be welcomed and, if approved by West Lindsey District Council, it would become a material consideration in the determination of future planning applications.