The Sill
Graham Vincent

Member Article

New report reveals Northumberland training and tourism project could contribute millions to NE economy

An independent report has revealed an £11.7 million Northumberland training and tourism project could create around 120 jobs and contribute almost £5 million per year in visitor spending.

The economic impact study of The Sill, the National Landscape Discovery Centre planned in Northumberland National Park, found that once fully operational, the training and discovery centre could receive 100,000 visitors a year, contribute £4.95 million to the regional tourism economy and generate upwards of 117 jobs.

The study, undertaken by independent consultants, estimates that the additional jobs and income will be supported through extra spending at the site and in the wider economy, attracting more visitors to the National Park and North East as a whole and encouraging them to stay longer and spend more.

As part of its core offer, The Sill will also be a leading facility for education and training, providing a year-round base to operate from.

The report predicts 23,000 formal learning opportunities created per year for school, higher and further education students, a Rural Growth Hub to support the development of 10 to 20 micro and rural enterprises, superfast broadband to a deep rural area and 80 per cent of its energy needs generated through renewable energy facilities.

1,200 volunteer days are estimated to be supported by 2016, delivering wide-ranging benefits to local communities across the National Park.

The Sill’s project director, Stuart Evans, stated: “Northumberland’s rural economy is based on two key business sectors – tourism and agricultural. The Sill will provide a hub for local businesses and state-of-the-art training and education, drawing universities and schools from across the country.

“The Sill will enable the current generation and future generations to make better living from managing the countryside and studying landscape management in an inspiring setting. The tourism offer is of international appeal – Europe’s only gold status Dark Sky Park and the internationally renowned Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site – and the attraction of The Sill will be all year round.”

The National Landscape Discovery Centre will be located at the easy-to-access Once Brewed, the site of the current National Park Centre at the heart of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site in Northumberland National Park and Northumberland International Dark Sky Park – one of the Europe’s most prized natural landscapes.

The direct benefit to rural business is supported by Antony Braithwaite, the North East’s rural advocate. Antony commented: “Our job is to promote economic growth and new jobs in the rural North East, and encouraging business in the Uplands is a huge part. The Sill provides an innovation centre and training in modern uplands management – moorland management, water quality improvement, forestry etc. It is an exciting project aimed at a sustainable future for our beautiful uplands and all who live and work there.”

Predicting a significant boost to the tourism industry in the North East, investment in The Sill is critical to the future success, rural businesses in Northumberland and safeguarding one of the most unspoilt areas in the country.

With the key aim of generating business across the whole of the North East, the report estimates that the majority of new jobs would be supported in the local and regional economies through additional visitor spend. The fundraising effort to help make this inspiring project a reality is being spearheaded through a new Northumberland National Park charitable foundation.

Tony Gates, chief executive of Northumberland National Park Authority and Northumberland Tourism Board Member, said: “Tourism makes up a significant proportion of the region’s economy and the evidence supports its potential to contribute even more. The release of this independent report highlighting the vast economic benefits of The Sill is a great confidence boost for what would be a nationally significant project.

“The Sill will help Northumberland achieve its target of 6% growth in the visitor economy, something we are working closely on with Northumberland County Council and other tourism sector partners.

“The Sill has the potential to create huge dividends for the North East economy, rural businesses and the communities at the heart of Northumberland. It will be a focal point for the understanding and enjoyment of our natural environment and will be a great resource for young people to discover their countryside.”

The development phase of The Sill project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA are seeking to secure an additional £3.5 million in funding for the full project costs and to make their vision for The Sill a reality.

After a year into the development phase of the project, the updated Economic Impact Assessment report 2014 was commissioned by lead partners Northumberland National Park Authority and Youth Hostels Association (England and Wales), to take into consideration the significant levels of public consultation, local business involvement in the initiative and the new building design.

As part of the development of the 2014 Economic Impact Assessment report, consultants from New Skills Consulting carried out interviews with 20 local businesses and attractions, to gather their views on the project and estimates regarding its impact on their organisation and the wider supply chain.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Graham Vincent .

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