Chapter 7: Tourism Development
This chapter sets out the spatial planning strategy and objectives to guide and facilitate the development of a sustainable tourism industry in the county. While the Council strongly supports the development of tourism as a key pillar of economic growth for the county, it also recognises that there is a need to protect and manage the county’s tourism assets and resources to ensure their long term sustainability and ensure that new tourism developments respect, respond and enhance their physical setting, environmental quality and local community.
The Council has a direct and indirect role in delivering tourism related developments. The Council’s enhanced role in economic development will see it focus predominantly on tourism product development, co-ordination and facilitation of the tourism industry within the county. The Council is currently leading a number of proposed projects including greenways, blueways, a marina in Wexford Town, Carrigfoyle Outdoor Activity Centre and Ireland’s Ancient East incorporating the Norman Way, proposed tourism developments at the National Irish Heritage Park and Enniscorthy Town. As a planning authority the Council must ensure that public and private tourism and related developments are in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the county including considerations relating to location, scale, siting, access, design and protection of the environment, heritage and amenity of host communities.
7.2 Climate Action and Tourism
The key aims include to:
- Ensure new tourism related development in coastal areas is located is away from areas at risk of coastal flooding and coastal erosion.
- Ensure only water-compatible tourism related development occur in areas at risk of flooding e.g. marine and water based sports and ancillary facilities.
- Develop, where possible, new tourism related development along, or in close proximity to public transport routes.
- Ensure that EV charging networks is rolled out to the main tourism destinations in the county.
- Ensure new tourism related buildings are NZEB and ensure the design and layout of the site and buildings take account of predicted climate change.
- Work with relevant State bodies to protect the county’s natural, built and cultural heritage from the impacts of climate change.
- Give consideration to appropriately located tourism developments that would allow our coastal areas maximise opportunities that the changing climate (warmer summers) will offer.
7.3 Policy Context
The preparation of this chapter had regard to national, regional and local policies relating to tourism development and promotion.
People, Place and Policy- Growing Tourism to 2025
The Government’s Tourism Policy Statement sets out a series of policy objectives and headline targets to increase overseas visitor revenue to €5 billion, to grow total employment by 50,000 to 250,000, and to achieve ten million overseas visitors. The document also sets out the role for local authorities in the development and promotion of tourism which, from a land use planning perspective, includes:
- To continue to act as a primary developer of a range of public tourism infrastructure including outdoor tourism infrastructure and urban and rural heritage,
- To support community efforts in destination development including assisting communities to align their efforts with the tourism agencies, brand architecture and consumer segmentation model,
- To provide a competitive environment for tourism enterprises through a continued focus on high quality maintenance of public infrastructure frequently used by visitors,
- To promote universal access in tourism initiatives and developments, and
- To support efforts in destination development and promotion for ‘age friendly’ tourist and accessible tourism in collaboration with communities, relevant Government Agencies and stakeholders.
Realising Our Rural Potential-Action Plan for Rural Development
This Government Statement focuses on five key pillars to promote rural development. Pillar 3 relates to maximising rural tourism and recreation potential with the key objectives to:
- Increase tourist numbers to rural Ireland by 12% by 2019,
- Support sustainable jobs through targeted tourism initiatives including the support of key marketing initiatives such as Ireland’s Ancient East,
- Develop and promote Activity tourism in rural areas through the development of blueways, greenways and other recreational opportunities, and
- Develop and promote our natural and built heritage.
National Planning Framework
The NPF recognises that the country’s wealth of natural heritage, built heritage, landscapes, green infrastructure, rivers, coastal areas and the marine, and the Arts and culture offer significant capacity to directly and indirectly sustain communities, create employment and deliver real social benefits for rural areas in particular. NPO 22 aims to facilitate tourism development and, in particular, a national greenways, blueways and peatways strategy which prioritises projects on the basis of achieving maximum impact and connectivity at national and regional level while NPO 60 requires the conservation and enhancement of the rich qualities of natural and cultural heritage of Ireland in a manner appropriate to their significance.
Draft National Marine Planning Framework
The Draft National Marine Planning framework recognises the importance of land-sea interactions in the tourism industry and the interdependence of the landside and marine elements. It aims to position Ireland as a world class sustainable coastal and marine tourism destination through the sustainable development of coastal and marine recreation activities, to support coastal communities, to maintain the natural marine and coastal areas and improve access for tourism.
Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region
The RSES outlines that a successful tourism sector creates significant benefits for many other sectors such as agriculture, food and drinks, transport and retail. RPO 53 sets out the tourism objective for the region which is:
- Enhance provision of tourism and leisure amenity to cater for increased population in the region including recreation, entertainment, cultural, catering, accommodation, transport and water infrastructure inter alia.
- Promote activity tourism subject to appropriate site selection and environmental assessment processes.
- Sustainably develop the road network and public transport services and facilities for improved visitor access, longer dwell times due to improved connectivity to ports and airports and tourism growth.
- Sustainably develop walking and cycling trails opening greater accessibility to the marine and countryside environment by sustainable modes and promote the sustainable designation and delivery of Greenway and Blueway Corridors.
- Facilitate appropriate tourism development and in particular a National Greenways, Blueways and Peatways Strategy, prioritising sustainable projects that achieve maximum impact and connectivity at national and regional level.
- Identify and map catchment areas concerning culture, heritage and tourism of regional significance/scale. Such catchments should have the potential to deliver small-scale economic development and using wider local services such as post offices and local public transport.
- Support the relevant authorities in the development of specific monitoring protocols for visitor pressure to ensure that tourism activities are maintained within sustainable limits for the European sites in the region.
RPO 54 reinforces the need to monitor and assess the on-going effect of tourism on sensitive features with particular focus on natural, archaeological and built heritage assets, while RPO 173 states that there will be investment in the sustainable development of infrastructure and service improvements on the transport networks along the region’s key tourism corridors including Ireland’s Ancient East.
County Wexford Tourism Development Strategy 2019-2023
The aim of the strategy is for County Wexford to become one of Ireland’s most compelling tourism destinations and, in doing so improve the quality of life of people and communities throughout the county. It is envisaged that the strategy will directly:
- create new employment opportunities throughout the county;
- create year-round sustainable tourism businesses-driving ‘season extension’;
- diversify sources of income to Wexford’s local economy;
- create and improve local infrastructure, facilities and amenities; and
- bring people and communities together.
The strategy is seeking to increase tourism revenue by 18.7% and visitor numbers by 12% and in doing so creating approximately 800 new jobs in the county.
The strategic goal for visitor experience development is “To strengthen, develop and elevate Wexford’s range of compelling, unique and must-do visitor experiences, creating real standout and competitive differentiation.” The visitor experience development framework is focused on 5 key elements:
- Establish the most compelling clustered experience of Ireland’s Ancient East This will be centred on a clustered experience encompassing the Hook Peninsula, Loftus Hall, the Dunbrody Famine Ship, the Irish National Heritage Park, Tintern Abbey, JFK Homestead and Arboretum.
- Develop Wexford’s Town profile as a unique and vibrant Maritime town. This will be centred on the town’s Viking heritage, its long and rich seafaring history, unique maritime environment, water sports, festival and food offering and, in time, the Trinity Wharf Development.
- Establish Wexford’s contemporary coastal experience. This will be focused on coastal towns from Gorey to Fethard, and encompassing key Blueways and Greenways, developing clustering experiences that will rejuvenate Wexford’s sunny South East’s proposition and position it alongside leading coastal experiences such as Cornwall in the UK.
- Culture and heritage experience development. The development and clustering of unique and diverse cultural and heritage experiences (including the Irish National Heritage Park, Enniscorthy, Ferns Castle, Wells House, Johnstown Castle and the Norman Way), brought to life through storytelling and animation.
- Create a new and unique and original iconic experience The exploration and development of a completely new and unique visitor experience to Wexford (this is a longer term/horizon objective).
Wexford Local Economic and Community Plan 2016-2021
The Wexford LECP highlights the potential of tourism as an economic driver with a particular emphasis on its role in creating employment, supporting and sustaining rural communities and populations. High Level Goal 3 aims “to continue to develop and promote County Wexford as a great place to live, work and visit”. Key priorities under this goal, which the CDP supports and will facilitate the implementation of, include Support rollout of Ireland’s Ancient East and other collaborative marketing ventures;
- Provide support and training to develop Wexford’s niche tourism sector.
- Increase Wexford’s profile as a tourist destination for both international and domestic tourism.
- Increase the variety of quality tourist accommodation and
- Diversification of the tourism product.
7.4 Tourism Product
County Wexford is a popular tourist destination for both overseas and domestic visitors. In 2017 the county attracted 232,000 overseas visitors which generated approximately €61 million revenue for the county. In the same year, the county attracted 654,000 domestic visitors, generating revenue of approximately €146 million1.
The county has a diverse range of natural, built and cultural heritage assets. Such assets include natural amenity areas such as the Blackstairs Mountains, forests and woodlands, river valleys, the coastline, coastal walkways, sandy beaches, nature reserves and a rich archaeological and built heritage. Strong performing attractions in the county include Wells House and Gardens, J.F.K Arboretum, Johnstown Castle Gardens and Agricultural Museum Dunbrody Famine Ship and Visitor Centre, Heritage Park, Hook Lighthouse, and Dunbrody Abbey2
The county offers a range of quality tourist accommodation which together with tourist attractions will attract visitors to the county and encourage them to stay longer. Recent improvements to road infrastructure, including the M25 New Ross Bypass and the M11 Enniscorthy Bypass, have enhanced access and reduced journey times to Wexford. Wexford’s proximity to two airports, Waterford City and Dublin Airport, and being the home of Rosslare Europort makes it easy for tourists to travel to the county.
The most exciting tourism opportunity for the county lies with Fáilte Ireland’s ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ programme. This is a branded visitor experience encompassing the rich heritage and cultural assets that Ireland has to offer in the midlands and south eastern region of the country. County Wexford is home to a wealth of cultural heritage and attractions, which form an integral part of Ireland’s Ancient East, and therefore the county is in a significantly advantageous position to attract further visitor numbers to the county.
The Norman Way was one of the first tourism initiatives in the county to evolve from the programme. It is a heritage trail that runs along the south coast of the county, focused on a range of medieval sites which help the visitor understand the Norman way of life. Phase 1 of the Trail, which was officially opened in 2017, is focused on eleven sites from Lady’s Island to St Mary’s Church in New Ross. The ‘Eurovelo 1 Atlantic Coast’ route also follows the Norman Way giving cyclists the opportunity to enjoy the sites and scenic landscapes. The trail also offers opportunities for other tourist activities, restaurants, pubs and shops to benefit, and possibilities for the development of spin off local businesses. Phase 2 is currently under way.
The Council is also actively pursuing further developments under the IAE brand including:
- A new Norman experience at the Dunbrody Visitor Centre, New Ross Town.
- A new Viking village at the Irish National Heritage Park which will be linked to the nearby Wexford Town to reflect its Viking heritage.
Other current Council tourism related projects include:
- Enhanced visitor experiences at Hook Lighthouse which would centre on the ‘Story of a Thousand Shipwrecks’ and the location and geology of the area by delivering a dynamic animated visitor experience.
- Enniscorthy Town tourism project/town centre enhancement
- Wexford Arts Centre
- Carrigfoyle Outdoor Activity Centre
- Greenways and blueways
- Cultural and events centre and marina as part of the planned Trinity Wharf Development in Wexford.
- Public realm projects in New Ross town (removal of oil tanks from the quay front, a public park at High Hill), Enniscorthy Town (Templeshannon Urban Renewal), Wexford Quay Front, Main Street Bunclody and Esmonde Street Gorey Town.
7.5 Tourism Development Spatial Strategy
The county has a strong tourism product with many opportunities to enhance the tourism offer and the visitor experience. This spatial strategy will facilitate the further development of a tourism industry which will act as a key economic driver in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner. The Strategy will also ensure that the industry develops in appropriate locations, and at a pace and scale which ensures that the natural and cultural assets, which form the basis of the industry, are not diminished in the long term.
7.5.1 Overall Goal
It is the goal of the Council, as set out in its County Tourism Strategy, to become one of Ireland’s most compelling tourism destinations and in doing so improve the quality of life of people and communities throughout the county.
To achieve this, the Council will utilise Wexford’s history, unique natural and built tourism assets and its strategic location to further develop tourism as a key economic driver for the county while ensuring that this takes place in a manner which respects the county’s heritage, cultures, its people and environment.
The spatial planning strategy will guide and facilitate the development of tourism products and experiences that are based around the use and enjoyment of our natural and built heritage assets by all. Having regard to this, the keys aims are to:
- Ensure that the tourism industry in County Wexford continues to grow in a sustainable manner and to protect the county’s natural and built resources and assets.
- Maximise the potential of tourism as a key pillar of economic growth for the county and region through the development of a high quality, strong, year-round tourism industry, which provides sustainable well-paid jobs.
- Maximise the potential of the Ireland’s Ancient East Programme for the county through the participation in and facilitation of appropriate projects and initiatives.
- Promote improved access to the county through the further development of Rosslare Europort and the provision of enhanced public transport, road access, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, incorporating the principles of universal design throughout the county.
- Enhance towns and villages across the county so that they are vibrant, attractive, accessible and welcoming places to visit and to maximise their potential to support and benefit directly from the tourism industry.
7.5.3 Sustainable Tourism
There is a need to achieve a balance between appropriate tourism developments and economic, environmental and social sustainability. In this regard, the needs of the visitor, the place and the host community must be carefully balanced and it must be ensured that the tourism assets can continue to be enjoyed by future generations and not prejudiced by short term or purely economic considerations. It is also imperative that natural assets such as habitats and species and water quality are not diminished or threatened by tourism development or activity.
7.5.4 Making Tourism Accessible for Everyone
Everyone must be able to enjoy tourism amenities and experiences, regardless of age or ability. The Council, through its roles as a planning authority and a building control authority, will ensure that there is a wide range of accessible tourism experiences. While the Council acknowledges that some existing sites by reason of their historical design, siting or location may have accessibility limitations, the Council will make every effort to ensure tourism developments and associated spin off developments are accessible to everyone.
Tourism Strategic Objectives
It is the objective of the Council:
7.6 Locations for Tourism
The spatial planning strategy is focused on directing tourism development to our towns and villages. While rural based tourism offers significant potential for the county, it is prudent that it is carefully managed to protect these areas which are, in themselves, are a tourism product. Accordingly, tourist development in rural areas will be carefully considered in accordance with the objectives and exceptions set out in this chapter, Chapter 6 Economic Development Strategy and Chapter 12 Coastal Management.
7.6.1 Tourism in Towns and Villages
Towns and villages in the county provide a range of tourism attractions, facilities and services and are themselves destinations to which tourists come. Some settlements in the county, such as the coastal settlements of Rosslare Strand and Courtown, rely heavily on tourism because of their character, location and setting and also due to the unique range of entertainment, activity and lifestyle options that they offer.
Sustainable tourism facilities, when properly located and managed and particularly if they are easy to get to by a range of transport modes, will encourage longer visitor stays, help to extend the tourism season and add to the vitality of settlements throughout the year3. In this regard, tourist accommodation, visitor centres and commercial/retail facilities serving the tourism sector should generally be located within towns and villages and developed with the principles of universal design to ensure they are accessible for all. This will help to foster strong links to a range of other economic and commercial sectors and sustain the host settlement and its community. There are exceptions where tourist developments will be considered outside of towns and villages. These exceptions are discussed in Section 7.6.2 Rural Based Tourism, Section 7.7.4 Integrated Resorts and Amenities and Section 7.7.5 Tourist Accommodation.
7.6.2 Rural Based Tourism
The economic benefits of rural tourism and the continued development of this sector have huge potential to revitalise local economies, provide job opportunities for the farming community and enhance the quality of life of rural communities.
The Council will continue to support rural based tourism projects where it relates to the use of a rural landholding and the enjoyment of a rural resource and is appropriate in scale for the rural location.
The following provides guidance on the types of land holdings and premises that may be considered for rural based tourism development:
- For agri-tourism/farm diversification projects a farm holding which is a minimum of 10ha.
- For equestrian related tourism, an equestrian farm which is a minimum of 10ha
- For wood crafting, the timber should be either sourced on the site (an established forested landholding) or sourced close by to the site. Such facilities are envisaged as of craft scale and not commercial wood manufacture.
- Other examples of suitable landholdings include a county house with outbuildings and walled gardens
- Individual premises along a Greenway such as a traditional dwelling, building or farm building from which it is proposed to provide a service to greenway users and other tourists such as a café, bicycle hire or a craft shop.
The Council will consider each proposal on a case-by-case basis. The rural resource/tourism product/attraction must be located on the site, or in close proximity to the site and the scale is commensurate to the premises. It must be demonstrated that the proposed development does not adversely affect the rural character, environmental quality and amenity of the rural area.
Where an extension to an existing authorised project is proposed, the Council will consider whether the proposed increase in scale and intensification of use remains appropriate to its rural location, the impact on the environment and residential amenity or whether by reason of increased scale and intensification, sourcing of inputs and number of employees, traffic generation it would be more appropriately relocated to zoned lands within a town or village.
It is acknowledged certain tourist facilities located in rural areas may be provided as stand-alone development, and that ancillary uses (e.g. café, restaurant, shop) may be required in order to ensure the long term viability of the tourist facility. Additional uses will only be permitted in cases where the additional use is integrated with and connected to the primary use of the site as a tourist facility, and in cases where the Council is satisfied that the additional use is ancillary to the primary use of the site as a tourist facility. The additional use shall be located adjacent to the tourist facility, and avail of shared infrastructure and services, insofar as possible.
Proposals which include the provision of tourist accommodation in a rural area will be considered in the context of Section 7.7.5 Tourism Accommodation, Chapter 4 Sustainable Housing and Chapter 12 Coastal Zone Management. The Planning Authority will not favourably consider proposals to convert a residential unit, which was previously granted/ used as a granny flat/self-contained unit for occupation by an immediate family member (whether authorised or not) for use as tourist accommodation.
Rural Based Tourism Objectives
It is the objective of the Council;
Proposals which include the provision of tourist accommodation will be considered in the context of Section 7.7.5 Tourism Accommodation and Chapter 4 Sustainable Housing and Chapter 12 Coastal Zone Management.
7.6.3 Tourism in Coastal Areas
The County Wexford Tourism Strategy aims to develop a contemporary coastline experience. Building on Wexford’s coastal towns and villages, beachfront accommodation, increasingly developed blue and greenways, coastal drives and walks (such as the Slí Carman Coastal Walks), water and land-based sports activities, range of islands reachable on day trips, nature and wildlife reserves, food and drink offering and culture the renewed proposition should be developed and promoted. Whilst Wexford’s coastal offering should be developed and promoted so that a wide range of destinations and communities benefit, it will also be important to develop a number of leading lights within the experience offering Courtown, Curracloe, Rosslare, Kilmore Quay and the Hook Peninsula receiving particular focus.
Coastal habitats and features such as wetlands and vegetated dunes play an important role in flood relief, in protecting from coastal erosion and are important in their own right. Such features, habitats and species can be damaged or disturbed by tourism development and associated activity. Future development in coastal areas will be carefully managed to ensure that the character of these areas is protected and enhanced whilst achieving and maximising their economic potential. Chapter 12 Coastal Zone Management addresses development in the coastal zone including tourism development within, and outside of, existing settlements, at beaches and harbours in coastal areas. The Council will direct tourist development, including tourist accommodation, to existing settlements in the coastal zone save for certain exceptions outlined in that chapter.
7.7 Specific Tourism Developments
7.7.1 Activity and Adventure Tourism
The Action Plan for Rural Development ‘Realising Our Rural Potential’ recognises the potential of activity tourism to contribute to economic growth in rural areas. The Plan states ‘outdoor adventure tourism is a key growth sector worldwide and has been identified as a priority for Irish tourism in future years’. The development and promotion of this sector provides opportunities for growth, in rural areas in particular, by facilitating businesses to leverage the tourism assets in their area in a sustainable way to support recreational activities. In Wexford activities such as canoeing, water sports, cycling, angling, walking trails, and mountain hiking tracks e.g. Blackstairs Mountain range (in consultation with Coillte and other landowners), beautiful beaches, mountain and rivers provide ample opportunities for activity tourism.
Greenways/Active Travel Routes
Greenways/Active Travel Routes provide recreational pathways for use by visitors and residents and encourages and promotes walking and cycling in a safe and controlled environment. They are also a significant tourism asset and create opportunities for the development of new enterprises and spin off businesses along their routes to serve the needs of visitors and residents. The Council will focus on developing villages and links to other attractions along these routes such as Tintern, Hook Head and Bannow Island.
The South East Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 aims to develop a greenway network which will serve as a quality international tourism product, that can also link the wide range of recreational, cultural and heritage experiences in the region that are part of Ireland’s Ancient East. The local authorities in the region have established and resourced a Regional Project Office to implement the strategy for the development of the regional Greenway/Blueway Network.
The Council is currently planning four greenway/active travel route for the county:
- The Rosslare to Waterford Greenway. This which will be an off-road cycle and walking path from Rosslare Harbour to Waterford City and will take in the villages of Kilrane; Rosslare, Killinick, Mayglass, Bridgetown, Wellingtonbridge. It will link in with the New Ross Town Greenway project.
- New Ross Town to Waterford Greenway including Redbridge-Mountelliot. This is joint project with Kilkenny and Waterford local authorities.
- Wexford Town to Rosslare Strand Greenway. This will be via the South Slobs.
- Wexford Town to Curracloe Greenway - final route being considered.
The use of disused railways as greenways will be promoted by the Council. However, the Council will ensure these developments are designed in a manner which will not give rise to a conflict, or prejudice, the reopening of these railways in the future. This approach is supported in the RSES which outlines the need to safeguard disused railway line alignments for possible future use, for example conversion to greenways but the development of new greenways along disused railways should still allow for future rail use if feasible at a later stage.
Two greenways (No. 3 and No. 4) present issues in relation to potential impacts on SACs and SPAs and these projects can only proceed if they comply with the provisions of the Habitats Directive. These projects will only proceed if such issues can be satisfactorily resolved following AA and EIA at project level.
Inland waterways in the county have the potential to add to the tourist product given their recreational, aesthetic and ecological value. Waterways offer a diverse range of activities from walking routes, kayaking, boating, angling and bird watching. The Council is actively involved in the development of an approved and branded ‘Blueway Trail’ on, and along, rivers in the county which give access to other activities such as cycling, walking, canoeing. Feasibility studies are being carried out on a Slaney blueway from Enniscorthy Town to Wexford Town. This blueway could also be extended to Bunclody, where possible. Any such proposal will be subject to Appropriate Assessment in accordance with the requirement of the EU Habitats directive to ensure the protection and preservation of all designated SACs and SPAs.
Specific Tourism Developments Objectives
It is the objective of the Council;
7.7.2 Business Tourism
Wexford is strategically located, has high quality road and rail connections enabling the county to capitalise on the growing conferencing and events market. The existence of a number of large hotels is also a critical factor in being able to facilitate large scale events. The Council will continue to work with hotels across the county that offer conference facilities to ensure that they can maximise the potential of this sector. Business tourism offers many potential spin-offs for the local area and economy and it is important that that local tourist activities and facilities are supported by marketing and promotion by these hotels.
Business Tourism Objectives
It is the objective of the Council;
7.7.3 Creative Arts, Culture and Food Tourism
Creative arts and culture is enjoyed by everyone, both residents and visitors, from visual arts, theatre, music and dance to opera and film. Creative arts and culture generates significant economic revenue for the county, both direct and indirect, and it provides a variety of employment opportunities.
The county has a diverse range of arts and cultural facilities most notably the National Opera House which is home to internationally renowned Wexford Opera Festival, Wexford Arts Centre, theatres in the main towns, art galleries, Gorey School of Art and Design, libraries, museums and cinemas. There are plans to extend this offering including the redevelopment of Gorey Market House and the refurbishment of Wexford Arts Centre. The Trinity Wharf development in Wexford Town also proposes a multi-use cultural and event centre.
Wexford has also become synonymous with festivals and events covering a variety of themes including maritime, food, literary and music providing opportunities for artists, musicians and food producers to showcase their talents and products.
The Council, in partnership with Creative Ireland, is promoting Wexford as a film location, targeting national and international film companies. The development of the film industry has value added economic potential for the county through the development of film trails/routes based around films locations in the county, for example, ‘Brooklyn’ in Enniscorthy Town and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ at Curracloe Beach.
Fáilte Ireland is promoting the development of food tourism based on a vision that ‘Ireland will be recognised by visitors for memorable food experiences which evoke a unique sense of place, culture and hospitality'. Wexford is synonymous with high quality food production and has developed a very good reputation in the areas of agri-food, seafood, artisan food production, and in more recent times, craft breweries. The Wexford Food Family was set up in 2011 to promote Wexford as a food brand locally, nationally and internationally. The county hosts annually food festivals showcasing and promoting the local food industry. There is an opportunity to develop a branded food and beverage trail which could be separate to, or complement, other established trails in the county.
Creative Arts, Culture and Food Tourism Objectives
It is the objective of the Council;
7.7.4 Integrated Resorts and Amenities
The Council recognises that some forms of tourism development, due to their self-contained nature or scale, may require a location outside of existing settlements, for example, golf courses. Such developments, and their requirement to locate outside of existing settlements, will be assessed on a case-by-case basis having regard to their scale, nature, site suitability and normal planning and environment criteria.
The Council will give consideration to the development of a limited number of integrated tourism/leisure/recreation complexes at appropriate locations in the county. It must be demonstrated that the development is dependent on an existing local resource or a unique site characteristic or an overriding need is demonstrated for the development at that location. The use must be designed to respect the character of the area and any existing natural or built heritage features on the site. The proposal must not detract from the overall character and quality of the site’s setting.
An integrated tourism/leisure/recreation complex may include a number of following uses: hotel and associated facilities, health/spa/wellness facilities, restaurant/café, conference centre, golf course, equestrian centre, nature trails, walking trails, trekking courses, indoor/outdoor water facility, fishing facility, museums/art galleries and associated facilities. The development must have a critical mass of activities to ensure that it is a self-sufficient destination tourism facility and not be developed in a piecemeal manner.
Such a complex may also include a small amount of ancillary tourism accommodation and leisure retail. The complex must be a significant attraction in itself to warrant/require tourist accommodation and leisure retail uses. These uses will be limited in the scale/quantum permissible and must be ancillary to and for use by facility. The tourist accommodation shall be used for tourism purposes only, shall not be allowed to be used as permanent residences, shall be available for short term letting only and shall be retained in single company ownership and shall not be sold off individually.
The development must be based on an integrated and comprehensive master plan and business plan and facilities and accommodation must be maintained in a single ownership. An overall planning application will be required for the entire complex with proposals, where appropriate, for:
- The preservation/conservation of natural amenities on the site,
- The preservation/conservation of the heritage structures on the site,
- The retention of the open nature of the lands,
- Significant and appropriate landscaping of the site,
- Physical linkages, including cycle ways and/or footpaths to the nearest settlement, and
- A phasing agreement that the tourist attraction/facility is developed before or at the same time as any ancillary tourist accommodation or leisure retail.
Integrated Resorts and Amenities Objectives
It is the objective of the Council:
7.7.5 Tourist Accommodation
The provision of a variety of high quality tourist accommodation is important for visitors and it will encourage a longer dwell time in the county. Tourist accommodation should be located within towns and villages in order to be in close proximity to services, public transport and amenities.
The Council will therefore direct new tourist accommodation including hotels, guesthouses, hostels, B&Bs and holiday homes to towns and villages, save for the exceptions outlined in this section, Section 7.6.2 Rural Based Tourism and Objectives TM 54 and 55 in Section 7.7.4 Integrated Resorts and Amenities.
Proposals for tourist accommodation in towns and villages must be proportionate in size, appropriate in scale, siting and design to its host settlement. The Council will also consider cumulative impacts and will not consider proposals which give rise to the proliferation of this use in a settlement. While the form of development will depend on the form of development in the settlement, in general the Council will discourage individual holiday home on large sites in favour of compact development of streets and places in accordance with Chapter 5 Towns and Villages.
In the case of a proposed change of use from residential to tourist accommodation, the Council will take into account a number of factors, including the applicable land use zoning (where relevant), whether the site is located within a designated Rent Pressure Zone, if there is an identified permanent housing demand (for rent or purchase) in the settlement as identified in Volume 9 Housing Strategy, the existing level of tourist accommodation and the appropriateness of tourist accommodation in that particular settlement. This is discussed in further detail in Chapter 4 Sustainable Housing.
With regard to tourist accommodation in rural areas, the Council will favourably consider proposals to develop self-catering tourist accommodation on a farm holding as part of a farm diversification project. This accommodation can be provided by an extension of the existing farmhouse or by the utilisation of other existing dwellings/structures on the farm holding. Only where it has been demonstrated that these are not viable options, will the Council consider new build development. Any new build development shall be in close proximity to the existing farmhouse.
Conversion of ‘Granny Flats’/Self-Contained Units to Tourist Accommodation in Rural Areas
Given the intended nature of these units and the material considerations applied when considering the granting of granny flats/self-contained units for use by an immediate family member, the Council will not favourably consider proposals to convert these units (where authorise or unauthorised) to tourist accommodation, regardless of whether the original use is now no longer required. This is in the interests of regulating development, avoiding haphazard development, protecting residential amenities and the proper planning and sustainable development of rural areas.
Hotels in Rural Areas
The Council will support and encourage hotels in rural areas where it is demonstrated that the hotel development is dependent on an existing local resource or a unique site characteristic or where an overriding need is demonstrated for the development at that location. The development must respect and enhance its rural location, the existing natural or built features on the site and its landscape setting. The development of ancillary holiday homes will not be permitted.
Camping, Motorhome Parks, Glamping and Caravan Parks
The Council recognises the importance of this type of accommodation in developing the tourism industry in the county. The development of these facilities should generally be located within or nearby existing settlements with pedestrian and cycle linkages provided. Consideration will be given to camping/glamping and motor home parks in the rural area where it can be demonstrated that the development would not significantly impact on the rural character of the area and have no significant impact on the surrounding environment. The Council will support community groups and sports clubs to develop short-term stay zones for motor homes.
The development of extensions to existing “static” caravan parks within settlements will be assessed based on the wastewater treatment plant capacity and the need to provide permanent housing. Such developments will require a higher standard of amenities such as play areas, bio-diversity areas, screen planting, walkways and cycle paths.
Chalets for use as holiday home accommodation have developed over time on an ad hoc basis mainly in areas within the coastal zone. There has been increasing pressure in recent years to replace these chalet structures. The Planning Authority recognises that most of these structures are in coastal areas where issues of coastal flooding and coastal erosion must be considered. The Planning Authority is also aware that many of these structures are served by inadequate infrastructure, including wastewater and roads. The Planning Authority will only consider the replacement or extension of existing holiday chalet structures where it complies with Objective TM72, and other relevant objectives of the Plan.
B & Bs and Guesthouses
This type of accommodation remains a popular option for people, both in towns and villages and in rural areas such as farmhouse accommodation and country house accommodation. The use of not more than 4 bedrooms in a house, where each bedroom is used for the accommodation of not more than 4 persons as overnight guest accommodation, is considered exempted development for the purposes of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), provided that such development would not contravene a condition attached to a permission under the Act or be inconsistent with any use specified or included in such a permission. Applications for permission (where the use of more than 4 bedrooms is proposed for this use or it is proposed to build a purpose built B&B) will be favoured in towns and villages. Such applications will be considered on a case-by-case in rural areas, where the scale remains consistent with that associated with this type of accommodation and is appropriate to the rural location and subject to normal planning and environmental criteria.
This type of accommodation should ideally be located within towns and villages, preferably served by public transport. However, the Council will also give consideration to the development of small scale hostel accommodation along established walking/hiking routes and on the site of an outdoor activity tourist facility in a rural area such as an Adventure centre/outdoor pursuits centre. With regard to the latter, the accommodation shall remain ancillary to the existing tourism facility on the site, and will only be available for use by those utilising the tourism facility.
Short term letting
Rural dwellings which have been permitted in recent times in County Wexford are restricted to permanent residence and cannot be used as short term/holiday rents. However, in some areas such as Courtown, housing developments have been permitted as holiday homes and can be rented for short term use without any further planning consents. Short term rentals are also a very important sector in providing tourism accommodation in County Wexford.
New legislation has been introduced to bring additional controls as a means to provide more accommodation for long term housing rentals in areas designated as Rent Pressure Zones (Planning and Development Regulations 2019, S.I. No 235 of 2019
Short term letting outside of Rent Pressure Zones
The above legislative changes in relation to short-term letting do not apply outside of rent pressure zones. This means the existing planning requirements outside of these areas remains unchanged. In this regard, planning permission is required for the entire use of a structure or the change of use of a structure for short term letting/holiday accommodation purposes .
Tourist Accommodation Objectives
It is the objective of the Council:
(a) It is demonstrated that the structure which it is proposed to replace has been on the subject site previous to 1st October 1964 when the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963 came into effect or has the benefit of planning permission and is in accordance with the planning conditions pertaining to same.
(b) It is proposed to replace the existing structure with a new structure which is equal to or not more than 20% of the floor area of that being replaced, or to extend the structure with an extension which is equal to or not more than 20% the floor area of the structure to be extended. This is to ensure that the scale and form of this type of development is consistent.
(c) The replacement structure is for use as holiday home accommodation.
(d) Risk of coastal erosion will be considered in accordance with relevant objectives in Section in 12.5 in Chapter 12 Coastal Zone Management.
(e) The risk of flooding to the structure and its associated waste water treatment infrastructure is minimal. This should be demonstrated by a site-specific flood risk assessment, if deemed necessary by the Planning Authority.
(f) The structure can be connected to the public waste water system, or effluent from the structure can be treated on-site in accordance with the EPA’s Code of Practice: Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems Serving Single Houses (EPA, 2009).
(g) Suitable water conservation measures form part of the development proposal.
(h) Satisfactory access arrangements are in place, and
(i) All other normal planning and environmental criteria area complied with.
7.7.6 Tourist Infrastructure
The provision of well-planned and attractive tourist infrastructure is important to the overall quality of the county’s tourism product and to create a positive and good experience for visitors. Tourist infrastructure includes car and bus car-parking, footpaths and walkways, bicycle parking, seating, picnic and rest facilities, toilets and showers, lighting, signage and information boards and refuse and recycling facilities designed with the principles of universal design. The Council will consider proposals for tourist infrastructure on a case-by-case basis having regard to the type of tourist attraction, its setting and character and the ability to successfully integrate the proposal on, or adjoining, the site. The Council will assist tourist bodies and local community groups in the provision of adequate recreational and tourism infrastructure.
The provision of tourist related signage is important as it allows visitors to travel with ease between their destinations and to detour to points of interest along the way which will increase dwell time in the area. While the Council acknowledges the signage needs of local businesses there is a need to avoid a proliferation of signage for reasons including traffic safety and visual amenity/erosion of scenic amenity. In this regard, there is a need for co-ordinated approach to signage and the preparation of signage plans for key areas/activities in the county such as the branded signage for Wexford Trails. Ireland’s Ancient East also has its own branded signage and the Council will facilitate its roll out in the county.
Tourist Infrastructure Objectives
It is the objective of the Council;
- 1- County Wexford Tourism Strategy 2019-2023 page 32
- 2- Fáilte Ireland’s Survey of Visitor Attractions Top attractions in County Wexford 2016 (+20,000 visitors)
- 3- Fáilte Ireland-Guidance on Sustainable Tourism (2016).
- 4- Proposals which include the provision of tourist accommodation will be considered in the context of Section 7.7.5 Tourist Accommodation in this chapter and Chapter 4 Sustainable Housing
- 5- This does not include a hotel.