South Downs National Park


South Downs National Park

Hotel Solutions completed a Visitor Accommodation Review for the South Downs National Park in December 2014. The purpose of the review was to provide an objective assessment of the opportunities and requirements for building the future capacity, quality and profitability of the visitor accommodation sector across the National Park, and to provide guidance on the roles that the South Downs National Park Authority and its partners can play to achieve this. Hotel Solutions had previously completed hotel and visitor accommodation studies for a number of districts that covered part of the National Park, including East Hampshire, Chichester, Worthing, Adur, Lewes and Wealden. The South Downs study sought to update these previous studies and fill in the gaps for areas that had not previously been looked at, to give complete coverage of the National Park.

The study involved a comprehensive programme of research including an audit of current visitor accommodation provision across the National Park; a survey of accommodation business managers and owners conducted through structured telephone interviews; interviews with holiday cottage letting agencies; a review of trends in rural and market town visitor accommodation development; stakeholder consultations with key SDNPA managers; reviews of relevant policy and strategy documents and the previous hotel and visitor accommodation studies covering parts of the National Park; an online survey of land and property owners; and a telephone survey of visitor accommodation operators, developers and investors.

The research provided evidence of:

  • A visitor accommodation sector that is performing very strongly at weekends and during the week in the peak summer months, with frequent shortages of all types of accommodation at these times.
  • Strong demand for high quality accommodation.
  • Clear prospects for future growth in the demand for all types of visitor accommodation in the National Park.
  • Good potential for the South Downs to capitalise on many of the current and emerging rural visitor accommodation development trends.
  • Some clear gaps in current accommodation provision, including hotel provision in the market town of Petersfield and gaps in accommodation supply along the South Downs Way.
  • Strong interest from national, regional and local visitor accommodation developers, operators and investors, as well as from land and property owners interested in visitor accommodation development.
  • A largely leisure driven and seasonal market for visitor accommodation, suggesting a need for incremental supply growth in order to avoid overly diluting winter trade.

The study recommended a positive and flexible planning policy approach that supports appropriate visitor accommodation development in the National Park and allows the economic, environmental and social benefits from accommodation development to be maximised, whilst also ensuring that the natural and cultural heritage of the National Park is safeguarded. The study also made a number of recommendations for actions by SDNPA and its partners to accelerate investment in the National Park’s visitor offer and more proactively support the growth and sustainability of the visitor accommodation sector across the South Downs.