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Study launched to examine turbines’ tourism impact

A study has been launched to investigate the impact of onshore wind turbines on Northumberland’s tourism businesses and visitor numbers.

Northumberland County Council has commissioned a two-part survey to evaluate the effects of existing and planned structures.

Northumbria University has been tasked with conducting evidence-based desk-top research with tourism businesses.

Through a business survey and focus group approach, it will explore whether there has already been an impact on tourism from turbines in the county.

It will take factors such as visitor numbers, occupancy rates and turnover into account and whether the presence or prospect of turbines will affect future investment decisions.

On top of this, the views of potential visitors to Northumberland will be the subject of work by Public Knowledge, based in Hexham.

The focus of its survey work is to gain a greater insight into the importance of natural scenery and landscape to tourists.

It will also look at the factors which affect a potential visitor’s decision to visit or stay in the county, whether turbines affect a potential visitor’s decision to visit or stay in the county and whether the presence of windfarms in a destination has had an effect on their holiday decision-making process to date.

The work comes after the county council last year agreed to explore the issue, following a motion made by Coun Glen Sanderson calling for research to be carried out.

Yesterday, the ward member for Chevington with Longhorsley said he was delighted that the study was being conducted.

He added: “There is a concern from residents across the county about the increase in wind turbines and there is a concern that these structures are spoiling the countryside and might deter future visitors from coming to our county.

“Because of the importance of the tourism economy to Northumberland, it was felt that it would be sensible to do work on this. I hope the study will come forward with its findings as soon as possible because the county remains under siege from onshore windfarm developments.”

Jude Leitch, of Northumberland Tourism, was in favour of the study, saying it will provide vital information and allow the organisation to better understand how visitors will react to turbines.