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From Stephen Curry

Thursday, 21 July 2011

When we go away to other towns or countries for a break we are all tourists. So when people come the the Calder Valley for similar reasons they too by definition are tourists. I make part of my living from such visitors as do many of the shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants of the town. So why do we sometimes hear derogatory references to such visitors to our town? They are after all just like you and me when we have a break.

This area has always had much more potential for what I call 'real tourism' than has been developed. By 'real tourists' I mean people who discover the valley by searching for something different and travel long distances expecting a warm welcome. These are not the local (ish) day-trippers (who are also welcome of course!) I'm convinced that with the right community attitude towards visitors we can all profit (in the general sense) from increased activity in that sector. Tourism contrary to what some sceptics would have us believe does create real jobs. Ask any person in the service sector if they would rather sit in a call centre or chat to customer in one of the above mentioned caf?s etc. and I think you'll find that they would consider their job just as real as any other sector. And a lot more satisfying in many cases.

If as a community we did want to take economic advantage of our tourism assets, town, river, canal, shops, woodland and moors. (Oh and friendly townsfolk!) . . . what do we need to achieve that?

From my point of view we need positive promotion and investment for tourism jobs. We already have many of the facilities in place. Currently this responsibility lies with Calderdale Council and has done for as long as I have lived here. Unfortunately my last 8 years experience of how they have engaged with this task, ranges from, 'just OK' to 'appalling' and never more than that. Their latest restrictive practise (Accommodation Charter) on B&Bs advertising in their Visitor Centre/Guide is a point in case. In saying that I have the utmost respect for the front-line staff in the Visitor Centres who have coped with change after change in policy, department heads and Councillor's with portfolio responsibly. I would like to add that one of the of the most positive actions for tourism in Hebden was the inclusion by our host site here of an accommodation section, which proved far more useful to potential visitors than CMBCs website or even Visit Britain!

Where then should tourism policy go from here? Well I would suggest that Calderdale have had their chance. They lack the commercial and economic sense to seize the abundant opportunities in the valley to create employment from this industry. My instinct now is to say that as Welcome to Yorkshire have shown consistency in promoting the whole region for the last 4-5 years that, they should be sub-contracted by Calderdale to direct resources here. Unfortunately their own future funding seems to be in doubt. So perhaps it will be down to local people with commercial, employment and tourism interests to take things forward. I'd love to hear some suggestions.

From Cllr James Baker

Friday, 22 July 2011

Hi Stephen, I know we have been talking about this recently. The new B&B charter that you have to sign-up to seems more concerned about encouraging legal compliance with the many regulations & red tape that affect the trade, rather than promoting tourism. As a privacy & civil liberties 'enthusiast' (if that's the right word) I'm quite concerned about the apparent right of access you have to grant to council officers to inspect compliance with the charter. This to me seems a rather over the top and unfriendly approach to take. Other Council teams already ensure compliance too, that's a job for environmental health & licensing.

Some of my priorities, that I know other Lib Dems share is to help local shops & business in this period of slow growth after the recession. There are also plans to take forward a parish plan that would take into account local people's views. Although I'm sure you have seen various plans and ideas come and go before, the process is important to bring people together. I'm sure tourism will play a big part in any plan, as it's a major source of income for the areas, and with the localism bill passing there will be even more opportunities for doing things ourselves.

I would be keen to support getting the Hebden Royd Tourism Action Group (TAG) going again. I'm sure all local businesses; councillors; and residents want to help promote tourism to the area, so hopefully we can all work together to ensure tourism thrives.


From Paul D

Friday, 22 July 2011

I imagine that few share my opinion that tourism is culturally carcinogenic and should be discouraged rather than encouraged, but you only have to walk around town to see that something is badly awry with current thinking.

Tourism distorts local economies and encouraged unecessary consumption and travel, environmentally it's a disaster, but culturally it's just cancer. Not just here, but choose any popular tourist location and step back to consider what impact it's really had, human trafficking in Thailand, the destruction of the barrier reef, streams of human vomit on the streets of Blackpool. Here we think we're different, that we can control this monster and even profit from it; I doubt that.

Most of our local politicians appear to have joined the long line of those prostituting themselves to tourism, in awe of its promise and blind to its actual effects. There has to be a counter to this narrative that tourism can replace the real economy. Where is the vision for industry, for agriculture, for new thinking on micro power generation or sustainable development? Only the margins, away from the power politics of resource allocation and priority setting do you hear quite sane people wondering aloud whether this isn't just all some sort of hogwash. Wondering whether we're being sold a bit of a pup here, if tourism is the answer, what exactly is the question? How do you decimate a local culture and distort a local economy?

Given that mine is an extreme opinion, we could at least mitigate the negative effects of tourism quite easily. A walk through Todmorden shows a town more at ease with itself, less compliant, more reluctant perhaps to swallow the line that if they simply work harder and stoop lower to meet the needs of vistors, then their lives will change for the better. We should be discouraging consumption of this sort, discouraging travel of this sort, investing in the people already here, not bringing others in for the odd day to gawp at them. The town is becoming more reliant on discretionary spending just as the economy hits a brick wall, that's not strategic planning it's madness.

If we want to generate sustainable employment then we should ignore these quangos and self appointed guardians of the common good. Their vision is clouded by involvement, or even total reliance on tourist income. People who seem to think that having a latte and watching the world go by is the ultimate human experience. They talk about footfall and bed occupancy, capacity and direction, whilst all the time they sit atop a concept that rests on human misery, on the inability of others to be at ease where they are, those who confuse having (or consuming) with being. Tourism isn't therapy, tourists need therapy. Let them take out their angst or discover themsleves elsewhere.


From Cllr James Baker

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Paul I think most people would appreciate that tourism can have some negative impact. Any economy that ends up relying too heavily on one form of industry can run into problems. Just look at all the pit towns that were reliant on coal, or the sea side towns that went into decline when people went overseas for their holidays.

I don't think any of us are suggesting that tourism becomes the only focus of the town. It does have a significant role though. The area is built on transport routes through the Pennines; it is travel and movement that brings us our prosperity.

As a local politician I represent people whose families, livelihoods depend on tourism so I'll do what I can to help them. Just as I'll do what I can do help any other industry become economically, and sustainably prosperous.

Last week we had a fantastic transition town showcase, and there is no reason why tourism can't develop alongside other industries. If environmentalism is a concern then surely encouraging people to holiday in the UK then going on cheap flights? Also with the Centre for Alternative Technology we have the potential that people leave their visit with greater environmental awareness.

I think travel is a good thing, and something that should be encouraged. I certainly don't think tourism is a 'cultural cancer'. That sounds really misanthropic to me. I think the world is an amazing and fantastic place, and that we become culturally richer by experiencing other people and way of lives. If people want to come and visit us here in Calderdale than that is great, we should take pride that we live in a beautiful area worth visiting.


From Rev Tony Buglass

Sunday, 24 July 2011

"Tourism isn't therapy, tourists need therapy. Let them take out their angst or discover themselves elsewhere."

Paul, do you never go on holiday? Do you never travel?

If a place become so totally dependent on tourism that nothing else existed, yes, that would be a problem, and I would accept a definition that described the industry (or lack of balance in its development) was the cancer that was killing that place. You could make a case for that with regard to parts of Blackpool, I suppose, but I really don't see that happening in Hebden Bridge. As a community, there is sufficient balance in the local economy to include tourism but not depend utterly upon it.

Travel and tourism are positive things, if done properly. People who have lived in or visited different places have the chance to develop a better understanding of life and community. Heaven preserve us from becoming an outpost of Royston Vasey - totally locally can go too far!!!


From Lizzie D

Monday, 25 July 2011

Whilst I can't agree with Paul's extreme view on tourism in general, and to be fair he does say that not many will, I can sort of see where he is coming from.

I will try not to hark back to t'days of mills, cloth caps and clogs, but those of us who have lived here for a long number of years do know that the Hebden we have now is far removed from that. I can't see how, with the closure of the mills (mainly sewing shops) Hebden could have survived economically. It was a dirty little place with nothing to do on a Sunday except go to church (which many will see as a good thing).

The sixties pop scene missed us out and the cafe culture was unheard of. We had a transport cafe in Mytholmroyd and a few chippies but not much else. The first supermarket was Greenwoods on Crown Street (where Oasis is now) and the decline of the old Bridge Lanes Coop had happened. Where did we go from there?

There was a man with a vision, a man who many seem to revile and mock now, but believe you me; David Fletcher started what you all seem keen to promote and preserve and that was making Hebden attractive to visitors. Mass stone cleaning took place and the Innovation opened. We now have a sprawl of cafes from Bridge Lanes to the station, we have shops that sell trinkets and people in work.

Are they happy though to cowtow to the endless demands of the tourists. Are they so grateful to be in work that selling soap and wooden buddahs is satisfying? I did a few years in a shop selling tat to tourist (now closed) and personally I found the average visitor rude, condescending and tight (they didnt buy much). Seeing shops opening and closing, selling similar things I assume that is still the case. How many bookshops does a small town need. How many volunteers have we working in numerous charity shops for no pay? Meanwhile, The big pubcos are closing our local pubs losing local jobs and affecting local people.

There is an air of discontent from those who see the 'proper shops' close and another twee gift shop opening in their place. Yes, Hebden is pretty and it has a canal but so have loads of other small towns. Todmorden has I think, managed to acheive a happy medium. I would prefer some long term investment into our town that gives us back some proper jobs and increases the sense of pride in the town, than see money invested in increasing bed count and footfall. I always think we should be careful what we wish for. Tourism isn't always the only solution to stopping towns dying and it shouldn't be our only means of sustainability.

From Paul D


Travel and tourism are indeed different, one is necessary the other less so.

Tourism has numerous historical strands, from pilgrimages to holy sites, the grand tour of cultural venues by European elites through the mass escape from factory life to the seaside or countryside. Each has shaped the way we see the world, my opinion (a minority one) is that current tourism distorts our worldview and diminishes local cultures, because it's largely based on shallow consumption.

I feel it's also important to challenge assumptions about tourism locally. Tourism rests on the disconnection between work and life that came with the industrial revolution. Because so many of us seem to be at war with ourselves about what we are and what we want to be, many people use consumption and tourism to fill the gap. Rather than become what we really want to be, we buy things we don't need, eat too much and take holidays. TV tells us that this is normal so we think it is.

We need to challenge ourselves and those around us. For example, should the Reverend's congregation be asked to donate any money they were going to spend on a holiday in Spain or Scarborough to local charities and engage in unpaid local voluntary work instead? This might sound like madness, but would actually be better for them, physically, psychologically and spiritually. Environmentally it would make sense, it would increase community cohesion and do real good. But I'm guessing it would be eclesiastical suicide to ask those claiming to be Christians to do a truly Christian thing. The disconnect runs deep and we disturb it, or draw attention to it at our peril. So asking a Christian to actually be one is much more dificult than it sounds.

Locally I feel that the main challenge is to prevent further distortion of the economy and further damage to local culture. What's being promoted is often based on a compelling, but depressing, post-industrial propaganda; that tourism is the only way forward, is our salvation, the only show in town. Those promoting tourism seem to have no vision for the town beyond more pavement cafes, gift shops and events for people who don't live here. Promoting tourism is always said to create jobs, rather than further distorting the local housing market, creating only seasonal work, providing fewer and not more opportunties for young people. The question is not just about jobs, but the type of jobs (if any) that are created. Tourism stripped down is just providing a service to someone with more money than you and pretending you enjoy it.

But tourism also distorts local priorities, beyond the town centre, steps used by local residents have no handrails, footpaths are poorly maintained, there are few litter bins, the streets are cleaned less often. Roads are blocked by those avoiding parking charges, levels of air pollution are dangerous (and known to be) but we invite more people to drive here for a day trip. If anything we should be clawing back the losses we've already conceded to tourism. It's true that more local people depend on tourism now than they did ten years ago, but this is simply evidence of failure on our part.


From Phil M

Monday, 25 July 2011

Hebden Bridge is a nice place to come and while away a few hours, its central to a lot of excellent walking, from a Sunday saunter to the Pennine Way, its got good access, theres good places to eat and alot going on (A3 sized 'whats on' guide) . . .therefore people come and spend time here . . . simple really!!

Wading through Paul's meandering and (self confessed) extreme viewpoint makes them sound like the root of all evil!!

We are very lucky to live in a place others want to come and share and they are all welcome. People visiting the town enable artistic and talented people to make a home here and mean that the pubs/ restaurants that we all enjoy are safeguarded by the extra income.

When I wander down the hill on a Sunday, see the farmers market, the multiple buskers, the people sat out on the very nice al-fresco seating watching the world go by, I feel happy to be a part of a great town.
In response to the original post, yes Stephen, positive promotion is always a good thing and should definitely happen!!

From Rev Tony Buglass

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

"For example, should the Reverend's congregation be asked to donate any money they were going to spend on a holiday in Spain or Scarborough to local charities and engage in unpaid local voluntary work instead?"

Cheap shot, and not that relevant to the case you seem to be making.

In any case, I don't have to ask them. If it wasn't for members of my congregations (and other like-minded folk) most of the charity shops in town would close. Most of my members give a fair amount week by week to the church, at least part of which goes elsewhere. To say nothing of other money which is raised for other needs around the world. Some of my folks use their holidays to help Hope Village in India - some were out there in the last year or so, actually doing some of the more expert building work that was needed.

Not only do you make sweeping generalisations about my congregations, you do the same about the reasons why people in general go on holiday. I've no doubt you're right in some cases, but most of the folk I know don't go off somewhere different because they're at war with themselves. They go to visit friends, or places they like, or to go and change the air in their lungs before coming back to work refreshed.

Not all tourism is bad. Not all entertainment is shallow. Some might be, but sweeping generalisations don't help the discussion.


From Paul D

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My aim isn't to take cheap shots, or to be long winded, but to just prod the complacency within our community, a complacency I also suffer from and so resolve by seeking views contrary to my own.

The Farmers' Market is a case in point, fine, but don't look for many local farmers there. Striped awnings and the odd Landrover don't mean it's actually a market for farmers, quite the opposite. Tourism distorts our economy in very subtle ways.

I'm also very aware of the huge contribution local faith groups make to our community, crucially their work with the elderly, vulnerable young people and our poor. My point is that Christianity asks its followers to do so much more and measuring one's own behaviour and those of others sharing a faith is necessary to expose the distance between what one claims to believe and what one actually does. This distance is not hypocrisy, far from it, but a falling short all the same.

Mass tourism, like mass consumption, goes against the teaching of Christ, a man who simply asked us to give away everything we own and follow him, most of us fail to do either of these things very well and I suspect the Reverend is further down that particular street than I am and so apologise if my comments were construed as an attack on him or his congregation. My aim was to simply point out that leading a good life is actually the point of Christianity and I think that tourism as an act of consumption takes us away from that. A weekend in Prague or a stag night in Blackpool might serve a purpose, but they're hardly acts of faith.

We're in the same market for this tourist pound, although we like to think we're not. We ourselves may enage in this same tourism market, but of course what we do is different, or necessary, or better in some way. Tourism corrodes us and those communities subject to it, short term it feels great, advertising tell us to just put it on the credit card and enjoy it, but it's not actually necessary and I'd say quite it's quite damaging.

So where are these jobs then? Where is the evidence that the thousands of jobs that have bled from the town since the 1960s have been replaced by this magical force for good? What skills do these jobs provide, what values do they promote? Why is the taxpayer being asked to promote an activity that appears so detrimental to many local people?

My fear is that if we pursue this route we will become dependent on tourism, not less and that the negative side effects will intensify. For example, why are more local parents taking their children to Todmorden park? Could it be to avoid the tourists? Is the much claimed diversity of our shops actually masking a growing similarity? Why are more groups of men coming here to drink to excess? The cheerleaders of tourism appear unaware of what is actually going on here. The side effects of their industry, its effluent so to speak, is very real.


From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Paul you obviously care passionately about what you identify as the negative affects of tourism. Rather than attacking the trade on which people like Stephen make their living, maybe you could use some of this passion to think up some ways in which we could promote more ethical and sustainable models of tourism.

Tourism doesn't just have to be about giddy hedonism and consumption, it can also be about cultural enrichment & education. Thriving towns and cities encourage tourism, but that doesn't mean we all have to become slaves to it.

Tourism is just one part of the mix of our local economy.


From Kate C

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

I'm interested in what people think all the shops in Hebden should be selling? We do have a good range of "proper" shops, two butchers, two bakers, shoe shops, clothes shops ( although I use the charity shops for my clothes shopping), sewing shop, book shop, kitchenware, hardware, stationery, pet shop, craft supplies etc. Yes we miss Lord Dales, but he retired, he wasn't driven out. Some of these shops are expensive, but that's the market for small shops, they can't compete with supermarkets or the internet on price, so they have to by quality. Oh, and why does noone complain about the number of hairdressers? There must be as many of them as cafes. I think without the tourist trade a lot of Hebden's little shops would be boarded up, and no-one wants to see that.

To Paul, I wonder if you've always had the privilege of living somewhere 'nice'. Do you know what it means to escape one of Leeds more miserable estates for a day out in the country? I'm not sure if you even believe your own arguments, I'm pretty sure they are particuarly helpful to the discussion, we're not Machu Picchu, just a pretty little former Milltown that makes a nice day out.

I wonder about some of the views expressed on this board. First we didn't want people moving here to live and now apparently we don't even want them to visit.


From Jenny B

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

I don't think many tourists do get a haircut whilst here, or do their shopping in the charity shops, of which we also have a glut, And yes we do have lots of shops, but as debated in earlier threads, the hidden cost of tourism is that it often inflates the cost of living for those people who live in a tourist area year round ( even in the charity shops).

I have become aware that I now avoid going into Hebden at the weekend because it is full of what I assume to be tourists. I do like the cafe culture too but I can't get a seat outside on a summer weekend. Maybe that is why people take their kids to Todmorden park?

So, yes tourism brings welcome money in to the area, but I do think that we need to be careful not to over egg the pudding of tourism, so that there is literally some space left for the locals to enjoy and spend their money in the area too.

From Stephen Curry

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Well not quite what I expected when I said I'd be interested in suggestions! It did however highlight the negative minority attitude to visitors to our town. I was talking about an opportunity to supplement the local economy, which if developed properly would provide sustainable employment for some, (proper jobs) not necessarily a reliance on tourism per se. The tourism academics divide tourism into many sectors for marketing purposes: business tourism, day-trippers, visiting friends and family, sports, leisure etc etc. I know some traders in the town feel that day visitors fill the town and spend little. Whilst they are not the sector I am actively encouraging, I have to say there have been studies done and there is no evidence to suggest the local economy loses out having this type of visitor. There may be anecdotal evidence to suggest they are not the the most appreciative of our environment and some may be rude. That has nothing to do with them being tourists there are just some rude people! And it is nonsense to tar all day visitors with the same brush. Ever been into a shop in town and had less than a welcoming smile or met a rude shop assistant? Would it be fair if visitors went away claiming we are a rude and unwelcoming town after such an experience?

Anyway as I said I only make part of my income from what I defined as real tourists, but I do know that this segment of the market do spend a significant amount in the area and do boost the local economy. They don't buy "tat" they buy our specialist, clothes, shoes, hats, even cooking implements and they compliment us on all the towns independent retailers. Our other main segment of the industry are the friends and family group. Between these two groups I calculate our guests spend 25-30k locally on top of their accommodation costs. They don't fill our streets with vomit or come for the sex trade and after 11 years and 12,000 + guests I can count rude guests on one hand. They often visit the Alternative Technology Centre and have experienced a relatively plastic bag free town. All this positive tourism has an extra eco educational benefit of coming here rather than Holmfirth or Haworth. And by the way we could be open all year, our business is not seasonal.

Paul will however, take comfort from my dismay at the failure of Calderdale to invest in a sector which their expensive consultants told them was currently one of the few economic growth sectors. It hasn't and won't replace all the jobs which "bled from the area since the 60s" but can give one alternative in a mixed economy. We now have a new self-promoting sector to look forward to; visitors who will flock to see the tourist town of 'anti tourism' (Fawltey Milltown) which will no doubt be acclaimed "So Hebden Bridge"

Who knows? one day pilgrims of Paul may beat a path to our valley in search of his house, complete with blue plaque........ And we will make them welcome too!


From Graham Barker

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Paul is making highly valid points that only Lizzie D seems to have picked up on in more than a token way. Hebden Bridge now has the label 'tourist town', which puts it in danger of being written off as anything else.

Tourism means low paid, low skilled jobs performed by people who can't afford to live in Hebden Bridge. It does not, as in major holiday economies, support other industries such as construction, food supply, transport, marine engineering and the rest.

It's a good thing if it adds value to a struggling rural economy through selling to walkers, cyclists, campers etc. But in an urban economy where most visitors just want to park up and mooch around for a couple of hours, I'm as sceptical as Paul about the net benefit. What sustains Hebden Bridge all twelve months of the year is in my view not tourists (badly misnamed - nobody 'tours' any more) but the people who live here and in the main earn their money elsewhere. Tourism may be useful icing on the cake, but it's not the cake.

Hebden Bridge has been a leisure destination for those with stout boots for well over a century, so there's nothing new about a basic model of tourism. But for most of that time it happened alongside manufacture, which earned the real money. Hebden Bridge was famous - world famous - for making things.

What is maddening is that the heritage industry reminds us of all that achievement without expressing the slightest regret at its passing. We should be angry at ourselves for letting it go, and should do whatever we can to reinstate it in a suitably modern form. Industry brings real skills, real jobs, decent incomes. Ask the Chinese and South Koreans. Soon, ask the Indians and Brazilians.

A current buzz-word is sustainability. Manufacturing made Hebden Bridge sustainable for over 150 years. There's probably nothing to beat it - but where is Hebden Bridge's industry these days? I can only think of two significant manufacturers. Whatever the total, it's tiny. And what is being done to encourage more manufacture to add to the balanced economy everyone pays lip service to? Nothing that I'm aware of.

A lot is being done to encourage the so-called 'creative' industries. I can't think of anything more creative than turning raw materials into world-class products, but manufacture is not officially regarded by the government as creative. So there.

I looked at the Transition Town website's Economy Group musings. Nothing about encouraging mainstream manufacture - presumably because that might mean switching on more than one lightbulb. I can clearly see that manufacture and a neo-peasant economy don't mix. Muck will continue to be generated by our demand for products, but we must ensure that it doesn't happen in Hebden Bridge.

Both Lizzie and Paul mention Todmorden as an economy that has it about right - or at least more right than Hebden Bridge. It will be interesting to see which is more 'sustainable' in the long run. If tourism continues to be our shibboleth, I think we've already got the answer.


From Lizzie D

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

I rather think that Stephen's perception of tourism/ tourists is going to be influenced by his own business. Running a guesthouse which is graded and accordingly priced at the top end of privately run guest accommodation in the area would, I think, give a biased perception of what makes a tourist. That his guests buy quality goods locally and not 'tat' is perhaps because they are in a higher income bracket than the average day visitors.

My opinion of tourism is based on my experience of working in the tourist industry for 4 years 2004-08 selling quite frankly 'tat' - which is possibly why the people I dealt with were often less polite, perhaps they could smell the potential exploitaiton of visitors? I stand by my view based on those experiences.

I am well aware that this would not be everyone's opinion, and I don't hate tourists per se. Nor do I find them all rude (Although trying to walk past a dozen or more of them complete with prams/ dogs etc whilst they block the pavements whilst trying to decide where to go for a coffee, semingly regardless of other pedestrians forced into the road, does frustrate me sometimes).

I also wonder where these people are that can spend the amount of money in the area that Stephen quotes? There would seem to be an element of snobbery in trying to attract those who can afford to spend more as against the 'park-up and browsers' who are definitely in the majority. To try and part visitors from their money encourages businesses that would not otherwise survive. How many locals buy soap from the soap shop? (lovely though it is), and how many more expensive knicker shops will come and go?

We are obliged to pay more for other goods, presumably because of the higher costs of being an independent trader in a tourist area. We do however need to buy food and have our hair cut on a regular basis.

Personally I would prefer more thought given and a commitment to invest in an industry that will provide longer term, higher status employment for my grandchildren rather than see them work in the lower paid tourist industry, or move out of the area to seek the alternative.

From Phil M

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Kate hits the nail on the head by calling Hebden a pretty little former Milltown that makes a nice day out.

'Former' being the key word, the manufacturing industry is gone and while the horrible 'claim culture' is allowed to be advertised on telly it will continue to close down small, medium and large manufacturing companies and see them move abroad, they can't afford the employee liability insurance anymore!

I grew up in a real tourist area on the South coast, where you didn't even think about going out to drink in the summer as the pubs were thronged with groccles (Historical Dorset name for the tourist).

Hebden is no such place, it has a great balance of people enjoying a pretty little former milltown, the place has a lovely 'buzz' to it of a weekend and is nice and sleepy thru the week. We are very lucky to have this and it enables us to enjoy the myriad of interesting shops and be serviced by many smaller useful shops as well.

If there wasn't a tourist trade, the smaller shops would close, the pubs would close, the restaurants would suffer and there would be a big supermarket opening up to meet the needs of the townsfolk . . then you really would have something to whinge about!!

From Zilla Brown

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

It seems that tourism or not we shall soon end up with the town we all deserve because of our own indifference:- "funky" "quirky" nondescript and shallow.

When long established shops that have been part of the intrinsic framework and character of the town start to fold it's time to take a hard look at what is happening locally. Purchases made by both tourists and locals are obviously not enough to support our only proper book shop in town, The Bookcase on Market street. I'm surprised that this has attracted no comment at all on Hebweb. It looks like the shop may soon close if no one takes it over, with consequent loss of more local jobs.

What will we get in its place -another shop with one person sitting in a corner selling soap, candles ornaments and cards, or expensive shoes and clothes? There must be a limit to how squeaky clean, scented and loaded with trinkets our homes need to be surely? Soon there won't be any "real" shops left in town, it will be possible to cruise from one scented trivial knicknack filled "haven" to another without any thought at all. Is that what we all want? You don't appreciate what you've had until you lose it.

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 28 July 2011

I think we have to be careful of laying the blame for some of the difficulties local shops experience on tourism. I suspect the reason the local book shop is having a hard time is because of wider trends towards on-line shopping & Amazon. The traditional high street shops are under threat in all places, due to changing retail patterns and supermarkets. It isn't because people come here for day trips to spend their money, or choose to holiday here.

From Stephen Curry

Friday, 29 July 2011

When I spoke about what I defined as 'real' tourists I outlined a definition of that market sector which would, if invested in, bring more income in to the local economy per head per day than the average day-tripper. The latter being the sector that opposing views of my proposal seem determined to focus on as the negative which detracts from my point. My business bears little resemblance to that which Lizzie D takes it upon herself to describe, and it does not rely on tourists. I work hard at my business and have a steady income, so I don't need another job. My proposal for investment therefore, was not about me increasing my income or the bizarre suggestion of snobbery in choice of visitors with higher income brackets.

I don't just have a 'perception' of local tourism based on my own business either. I have worked with other businesses and interested parties in researching the types and numbers of visitors who come to the Upper Calder Valley. The bad news for those who have a problem with day-trippers is that, the current promotional plan from Calderdale is to market to visitors from just Lancs and Yorks. Which means they are not trying to attract overnight visitors and this might increase the likelihood of more day-trippers.

My investment for jobs proposal is based on the fact that Calderdale spent our Council Tax on an economic impact assessment of the recession and the consultants concluded that business services was the only growth sector in the valley. Within that sector sits tourism. The recommendation is that where there is the potential for growth and jobs, investment should be made in that sector. If there were other sectors where growth was shown I would call for investment there too. My premiss is based on the need for jobs, of any kind, in tough times. You can argue all you will, like a Monty Python sketch, about real jobs, proper jobs, real shops or proper shops (the rest must be non-organic jobs or shops? Or plastic? Or holograms?) but unless you define 'real' in some economic sense where there is demand for those jobs/shops and their products or services, it's just idealism, not current reality. If there is a demand for another bookshop, bakers, grocers or ironmongers, believe me someone will fill it.

We do have a great variety of shops both traditional and 'different'. At least the town looks vibrant and not full of boarded up shops that you will find in most towns currently. It's a gross exaggeration that we are full of shops selling trinkets and candles and soap (though their marketing is obviously good to have created that perception!) And yes, shops and Caf?s come and go but that is for a variety of reasons. Anyone who has run a small business knows that only one in three survive in any sector due to failure in owner ability, marketing, economics, demand or competition. And that is not unique to Hebden. At least this town has or attracts people willing to try unique ways to make a living, and the shops don't remain empty for long.

Whatever industry is available to young people there will always be a significant number who leave the valley to seek wider opportunities. So lets not blame the lack of other opportunities on the tourism sector. It seems the days of "no son of mine is going to work in the mill" are back, only for 'mill' read 'tourism services sector'. That sounds more like snobbery to me.

As for comparisons with Todmorden's apparent ease with itself. They have their own debates about such things with equal vigour. The current debate about Netto, Sainsbury's and the Marina to name a few. Calderdale do not support the Visitor Information Centre in Tod, it is funded and manned by the people of the town themselves, which suggest they too see a benefit in attracting visitors and are determined to promote themselves and welcome visitors. Though I wonder if they see all those folk from Hebden apparently invading their park (because it is a nicer park than ours?) as nuisance day-trippers? My original post, whilst on the Hebweb, was inclusive of Todmorden and the rest of the valley. And they too should have the opportunity to develop the visitor market for employment prospects. This is not just a debate about Hebden Bridge or our signs or self image, it is about jobs and business opportunities based on all the valley's assets we have to offer visitors. And Calderdale will let us down if it fails this sector again.


From Jonathan Timbers

Saturday, 30 July 2011

I think there's a lot in what Stephen Curry says about 'real' tourism (as opposed, I assume, to day trippers). That's why the news about the collapse of the 'Pennine heritage/ Eco Museum' bid is such bad news for the future of Hebden Bridge. We desperately need a centre for people who want to come to our town to explore its history and surroundings. Otherwise, we do become too reliant on tourist tat and shops that supply luxury goods and therapies to the relatively wealthy.

It would be great if we could also generate other forms of business. But as Stephen points out, those who call for such business ventures aren't putting their money where their mouths are and trying to set up these sorts of ventures. Why not? Because in reality it would be too difficult and risky to set up a workshop which actually made anything useful hereabouts. You'd have to be very determined, very hard working and very not bothered about bankruptcy to try.

It would be great if local and national government stimulated the growth of alternative energy generation (e.g. hydroelectricity down Colden Clough, where I live) because the strong indications are that that is likely to be required in about 20 years time. The market is too irrational to provide for this; but sadly, government doesn't seem to be much better equipped, being in thrall to free market ideology, and not exactly full of thoughtful, innovative people willing to think outside of the box.

That leaves us with real tourism, and Stephen refers (refreshingly, in my view) to hard evidence in a recent economic impact assessment which identifies this as a potential area for growth. We really do need to think about how we can maximise the potential of this opportunity, not just for business, but for jobs and training for old and young alike, men and women, disabled and non-disabled people.

The first thing I think which should be done is for the town council - hard pressed as it is with saving the cinema - to consider what it could do to help salvage the Pennine Heritage museum concept. And I hope that that consideration stretches further than just saying 'oh well, they'll still be an archive in the Birchcliffe centre and an online facility'. The town needs a high quality information and study centre which people can visit and use conveniently if we want the town's economy to be more than a place which either serves the rich or those who want to get very drunk.

From Andy M

Monday, 1 August 2011

Whilst there is a technical difference between tourism (involving overnight stay) and day tripping it all contributes to the local economy - i.e. helps massively to sustain it - and it's nothing new. There was an interesting letter in the HB Times the other week about the tens of thosands who used to flock to Hebden in the lates Nineteenth Century on whit holidays etc - and some think it's crowded today! - but most of them came by train . . . now there's a thought.

From J Wadsworth

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Dear Hebdonites, may I give an offcumdens view to this current discussion. I live in Lancashire but at the weekends my partner and I spend many an hour in Hebden Bridge. We visit the cafes, buy gifts and Christmas presents and very often buy food, eco friendly products or just simply sit in the park and enjoy the skateboarding and lovely atmosphere it has to offer.

We came to the Handmade Parade, enthralled by the talents and commitment so many families gave on the day. Later this month we have chosen to have our very first holiday in your town. Why? Because Hebden Bridge is magical! It holds so much history and beauty that we have yet to find elsewhere. It woulden't matter if there were less shops or fewer cafes - there is something unique about its buildings, canal boats, walks and lovely people.

Yes, I fully understand there is a need for more affordable social housing, manufacturing and commercial jobs. I was a hippy in the 60s,met my partner and had six children. We both work to pay the bills like many couples. The difference between our lives and Hebdonites is that nearly all of our historical homes and buildings have been demolished and replaced with large ugly supermarkets and numerous industrial units. We still have a big unemployment problem, a high rate of teenage pregnancies, drugs and alcohol problems and crime figures that never really seem to go down.

My son who has learning difficulties who really wants to work and live independently was told, forget it and encouraged to stay on benefits.
Count your blessings Hebdonites. Your town may depend to some degree on tourism but you still have history, beauty and people who care about your environment. Treasure it while you can!

From Paul D

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Even if we disregard the negative aspects of tourism, we still have this problem of assessing any economic impacts. It seems to me that those supporting tourism as the main future economic driver have little, or only anecdotal evidence of any positive economic impact. The actual spend from tourism is always some estimate, my view is that it's probably inflated, for example, nobody calculates the lack of spend by those avoiding a town full of what appear to be mostly window shoppers each weekend. Nobody calculates the cost of a manufacturing business choosing Brighouse to avoid over inflated rents, or the nose to tail tourist traffic into town. Only quite recently did HX7 come to enjoy business rate relief a the same level as other areas of Calderdale. Even now, the support available to anyone choosing to set up elswhere makes us uncompetetive to say the least. Nobody appear to be costing in what tourism may in fact be taking out.

This is what I mean by strategic failure, tourism has not only distorted the local economy, but has distorted how others actually view our economic future. Look at People's Park and Calder Holmes, park, massive investment versus grovelling on TV. Or compare the traffic calming measures implemented at King Cross and those required at Mytholm or Mayroyd. We're off the radar in Halifax and have been for some time, so if you rely on tourism or don't, the end result is the same, a total lack of support and vision by those in power. Tack onto this the perceived lack of support for white working class communties and you have an incendary mix.

We appear to have a strategic vision that ignores industry, ignores agriculture and is blind to the economic potential of environmentalism. I'm not sure I agree with this concept of sustainable tourism, but encouraging those who do visit to use public transort and do more than shop is sensible. The new pilgrim's way is interesting, as is the development at Broadhead Clough, each requires an individual to leave the car behind and demands a real engagement with the local environment. But for me we need more balance, my view of a local is anyone living here now, but anyone who is this and has also lived here for many decades will be aware that it's now quite common to be treated as a stranger in the town of your residence or birth. Increasingly I see glazed eyes, faces closed to the prospect of familiarity and the potential for friendship. We need a vision for an economy less reliant on tourism, where the concept of economic growth is challenged, where humanity, collective and individual wellbeing takes centre stage. We need leaders, poltical or otherwise, to challenge our actions, working to meet our needs, not pander to our exessive consumption and insatiable wants. I'm not a cynic, but neither am I optimistic that there is a willingness to even consider the negative aspects of tourism in Calderdale.


From Phil M

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

To J Wadsworth I give reassurance that most of the people of Hebden Bridge do treasure it. I know of no-one personally who lives in Hebden that has a derogatory view of people visiting the town so please don't think its the norm.. I spent 10 years also visiting the town and spending many happy days walking, shopping, attending gigs and sampling the many lovely pubs...in the end we had to move here...

Have to confess, a lot of Paul's post above looses me from a relevance perspective but it seems to be missing the point that lots of people enjoy coming to Hebden, lots of people in Hebden like the people that like coming to Hebden and overall it supports a healthy economy.
Lots of the above negatives are anecdotal and generalisations. Are the tailbacks on the Halifax road all people coming to Hebden? I don't think so, its abit of a bottleneck leading from and to Burnley and Rochdale. Gordon Rigg carpark is always overflowing, these people come from somewhere!

As for manufacturing, as I said before the big boys are all gone, that's a national phenomenon, not a Hebden Bridge phenomenon and definitely not tourist based! What is the Alternative technology centre if it's not a brilliant example of small-scale manufacturing?

As an aside, we popped into Stubbings Wharf on the way home last night for a bite to eat, now, on a Monday evening, how many pubs can boast a busy bar/indoors and no outside tables free (either side) and people sitting on the wall. Lovely to see and I'll wager mostly non-tourists... does this mean that the distorted economy due to tourism is more distorted due to non-tourists adding to it ... or less... hmmmm...


From Andy M

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Paul - I may not have figures to hand - I'm sure someone will have somewhere - but surely a quick look up and down any of the streets in town will tell you about the positive economic impact, or are you classing eateries, gift-shops, galleries etc and the jobs they provide as a negative impact?!

From Anne H

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

I really Like Hebden and so do my friends and family who visit from todmorden and further afield. We even enjoy sitting in the square and people watching! But it pains me to say that I agree with a lot of what Paul says.

A busy pub on a nice summer evening or busy streets one day a week (or for the Handmade Parade) do not make a thriving economy. Many of the newer shops - and most of the pubs and cafes have only seasonal trade. In fact shops selling expensive gifts or luxury items often seem to close at the end of the summer and then a new one opens next spring.
Planning for jobs - planning for anything - is done on a Calderdale-wide basis. Looking at the wider area, the manufacturing industry (which I believe is doing pretty well at the moment) is always going to be attracted to areas where land is cheap, where there's plenty of it to build on and where big business - and the necessary transport to carry things to and from it - will be welcomed. Generally, this is not likely to be Hebden Bridge.

So maybe we should concentrate on what we have become known for (even if it's not always what we would have chosen to become known for) but try to encourage more of the walkers, cyclists, environmentalists and historians, and fewer of the people who just want to buy unnecessary items from shops that don't really reflect anything about the area - like Home Oh!, the soap shop and various other outlets selling kitsch items of clothing and furnishings.

As a rule of thumb, I'd say that any shop or cafe where you feel uncomfortable going in with walking boots on and a rucksack on your back is not the kind of shop that reflects this part of Calderdale - and please bring back the 'Heart of the Pennines signs'

From Andy M


Anne - I'm sure you don't mean to be but your comments come over as somewhat elitist: ie we only want proper right-on, classy tourists here thank you, not you tasteless day-trippers! Bad news for shop owners without impeccable taste too!

By all means encourage 'other' tourists - (not 'real' - they're all real) but the last time I looked the day-tripper trade keeps going right through the year.

From Anne H

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Andy - my personal objection to these sorts of shops isn't anything to do with taste (and I'm sure the owners cater for people with far more taste than i have!). My objection is that they smack of consumerism. I know that they will continue to thrive for as long as people continue to buy things from them, but it doesn't mean I have to like them. I think they are at odds with just about everything I see as good about Hebden Bridge - the natural beauty of our surrounding countryside, the aim for a more sustainable lifestyle, and the totally local concept.

Perhaps this doesn't have much to do with tourism, but if 'tourism development' is about bringing more consumerism to Hebden Bridge then I'm against it.

From Paul D

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Anne - tourism is all about consumption. But disregarding any concerns about the negative social and cultural impacts of tourism, one of the striking features of our apparently newly acquired dependency on it is the absence of real evidence of its benefits. Those paid to support it, or those who benefit from it, rely on a quasi economic analysis of impact that as a science is shoddy, but as a basis for policy is tragic.

All national and international evidence is that tourism sucks jobs into an economy, that is, it provides employment for non local people. By this I mean that 'successful' tourist economies don't really provide work for local people, from the non EU population servicing the hotels of London, to the Lithuanian or Polish workers servicing the hotels of Blackpool, the common strand is that it often creates low paid, seasonal and temporary work that is only really attractive to those on the margins of the economy, sometimes illegally so. It's only an answer to a question that an idiot would ask: how do we create really poor jobs that only people who don't live here will find attractive?

Locally we're asked to believe that this is not the case, that we have bucked the trend in this provision of jobs that nobody really wants to do. The cheerleaders of tourism promote it as the only economic option and in so doing exaggerate any real economic impacts. An example here may be useful. A local hotelier may think that their business is wholly dependent on tourism, but closer analysis would show that some guests are here to visit their family (we have experienced huge inward migration and this means family members are dispersed), other guests could be technicians or tradespeople employed in the wider economy (we've exported huge numbers of skilled jobs and appear to find making things somewhat distasteful), other guests would be here for leisure or recreational reasons and so fit the tourist label. The hotelier might be able to split the groups say 30/30/40, but this would still mean that tourism accounts for the minority of the business turnover. No matter; every job and every pound made is allocated to tourism. This is not to denigrate the effort and honesty of the hotelier; it just highlights the mendacity of local government and tourism quangos.

At the co-op it gets even more complicated. Unable to apply a residency test on customers, they have no way of knowing how much of the turnover is tourism related. But again we're asked to believe that without the tourist pound, the commercial heart of the town would cease to beat. Down the road at the soap shop it's no clearer, we might assume it's facing the tourist market, but I went in there recently to buy a gift for a relative with really bad body odour, and nobody asked for my postcode (I don't buy much, but it was good and much needed). Yet again the cheerleaders of tourism will tell us that almost all of the economic activity in town relies on the tourist pound. Tourists buy bikes form blazing saddles in case the train back to Bradford is cancelled; they buy pans from the pot shop in case the chip shop is closed; trousers from Harold's in case they ever confuse quaffing cakes with quality attire. Everything, we are led to believe, relies on the spending power of these day trippers from Cleckhuddersfax. This is a huge insult to the creative individuals making up the commercial sector of our economy. Our streetscape was formed over decades, by individuals whose enterprise cannot simply be labeled as tourism dependent. So jobs ? what jobs?

Jobs in the local pub? Where it becomes almost impossible to take a family for Sunday lunch due to the sheer volume of tourists, there the tourism spending in part only replaces that that would have come anyway, displacing spending elsewhere, but in the process making a business less amenable or accessible to local people. The jobs created by tourism were already there, there may be one or two more, but for how long? How sustainable is all this? Consider that the local pound is repeat business; the tourist pound is mostly a one off. What about those business unable or unwilling to pander to tourism, these may be negatively affected, either by inflated rents, or by distorted income patterns (weekend and bank holiday trade). Has anyone from Calderdale walked around town and wondered why so many of the shops are closed until mid morning? They're turning away from sustainable activity and supported by Calderdale and its biscuit tin lid vision of the town, chasing this dragon, this quick fix of the fast tourist buck.

Meandering or not, my questions are quite useful and I notice others are queasy, uneasy at being forced off the pavement and into the street, or into low paid work by a distorted economic vision. I also recognise that this is a pleasant place to visit, but I didn't audition for a bit part in somebody else's day trip, I'm not happy at forming the backdrop to their holiday snaps. Those recently arrived are perhaps less aware of the pressures, but need to ask whether what they to found attractive isn't being destroyed by tourism. Liberally minded people could listen a little more carefully, to the distasteful comments about local women and their sexuality, mass tourism isn't pretty, it's ugly. We, I mean all of us who live here now, are becoming part of the 'experience' part of the trip, which is getting nastier each season. It's incomprehensible to me at times, but I'm sure the evidence of the economic benefits is indeed close to hand and I'm almost sure such evidence reeks to high heaven, but of course it will form the backbone of future local government policy because our politicians are in thrall to tourism and its hollow promises. Our leaders don't and that is perhaps the problem, where we need moral exemplars we have amoral complicity in excessive consumption, in social and cultural degradation, all passed off as progress. Tourism is carcinogenic, but we don't know we smoke.


From Catherine Groves

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I think it is very interesting that the very first wedding we had last year in the Town Hall chamber was between a couple who have lived together for a number of years and had never considered marrying because they had never found the right place to do it.

The bride had been brought up locally and when she discovered that we now have a licence in Hebden bit our hands off! All the wedding stuff - flowers, gifts, etc - were bought in Hebden, accommodation for the couple and a significant number of guests was in Hebden (from hotels to the hostel and even camping, I believe), the reception starting off with drinks at The Shoulder with Morris dancing in the Square, then moved on to AJs and the evening reception was held in Heptonstall.

Maybe weddings and civil partnerships could be a new industry for the town? Can't think of a better place to do it if it has to be done!

From Warren B

Thursday, 4 August 2011

This is becoming a bit of an opening statement for me on this forum but I am one of the proud owners of The Yorkshire Soap Company Limited and the new shop Home...Oh, both on Market street in Hebden.

It absolutely infuriates me to read some of the one sided and rather ridiculous points raised on here about the shops and shopping in Hebden Bridge.

I can only speak for our business, but it does seem that our business is the one mainly being discussed as we have been mentioned on more than one occasion.

Some points that I think your topic of conversation is missing, points that I think are necessary to balance this conversation thread, points that have not even been considered and appear to be raised by people who have merely glanced quickly through our windows, have neither shopped or bought products from us :

70% of our customers are local shoppers, shoppers = real people that spend money in the town, not sitting in the square "people watching". We could not have grown the business without the support of our regular and loyal customers. Without them, we could not have opened two subsequent shops within the business. We are most definitely not reliant on just a seasonal tourist trade and no self respecting retailer should be, if you do something well, whatever your trade, people will come, Local and Visitors alike.

We do not over inflate our prices to suit tourists pockets, we cater for all pockets and pricing, we offer gift led items as well as everyday items.

As a company we employ 7, contracted, permanent staff members, all on legitimate full or part time contracts, each with high rates of pay, well and above what you would expect to be paid in most retail environments. Our lowest pay band is £7.50 per hour. Each staff member is trained in a whole range of skill sets.

Our growing employment contributes thousands of pounds of National Insurance and Tax within the economy, as well as providing good, lawful, work for local people.

We are a limited company, personally manufacturing our soap products on the premises, something that is always overlooked, generating thousands of pounds of VAT and tax each and every year.

We personally manufacture our products in Hebden, as stated, but we also sell our products Nationally and Internationally, again bringing further finance into the economy.

Having two successful businesses in the town, we pay FULL business rates on all properties, which again has a direct impact on the local economy.

Our refuse collection is collected by a local company, a service we pay highly for. Providing employment and local revenue.

Last year as a company, we donated £3,500.00 to local charities and schools.

We pay an annual fee of over £500 to both PPL and PRS music licences, in order to play music in the business, each contributing to the arts and music licensing in the UK.

We have an annual budget for local advertising, again supporting and contributing to jobs within the local area.

Our Home...Oh! shop supports local manufacturers and artists. We stock a Hebden Bridge furniture maker, a Hebden Bridge potter and ceramicist, as well as Leeds based and Yorkshire based product makers and I, as I am sure they, would find it rather offensive to have their beautifully made products called "tat".

We annually provide work experience for young people during school. Providing retail and communication skills for when they leave school and seek employment.

Hebden has a huge array of amazing shops - great butchers, fantastic greengrocers, great bakers, super hairdressers, book shops, haberdashery, galleries, iron mongers, markets, charity shops, florists, cafes, restaurants, hotels, bars, jewellers, paint shops, pots and pans shop, clothing shops, comic shop, record shop etc etc ? we all provide a service and we all contribute to the economy. All of Hebden's shops add value, to the town, the economy, the house prices and they all make Hebden the successful, vibrant, unique town it is, we must remember it is a town . . .

I personally think viewpoints have been slightly distorted because our shops shout the loudest, get the most publicity and seem the busiest, do not assume we are taking over the town and pushing out the history, tradition and quality of the town, we are consistently adding to it.

I do agree that we bring a whole range of visitors/ daytrippers/ tourists to the town, but should this not be celebrated and feel proud off ?
In a country where the local high street is in massive decline and the country on a whole is in a recession, Hebden bucks the trend and still maintains a consistently high balance of all manner of shops. Whether you personally like what they sell or not, should not be the issue.


From Phil M

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Warren - Love your shop and enjoy being able to buy pressies for the family and friends which are of excellent quality.

All of what you say above I agree with and support . . . long may you and every other shop in Hebden continue to make our town unique and a special place to visit..

From Dave J

Monday, 8 August 2011

Well said Warren - it is reassuring to hear that you are making such a considerable contribution to the coffers nationally and - crucially here - locally.

Now of course, we await responses from those who were so quick to attack your successful enterprises with explanations of how they have made their own contributions to our local economy.

I will certainly be buying posh soap for my friends for Christmas this year.

From Greg Hobson

Monday, 8 August 2011

If Paul D would like to bring a family for Sunday lunch to a hostelry that is providing a service that means it is full, then perhaps he should book or turn up early. Or maybe he would rather it was was shut due to lack of trade.

From Stephen Curry

Monday, 8 August 2011

Having started this thread, I'm sure the debate will continue in one form or another over the extent to how much the area needs or wants visitors and the income the different types of visitors bring to the local economy. The conclusions I draw from the debate on this forum are: that there are those that recognise the visitor market and income, in one form or another, has been part of the valley for many years and has developed into differing sectors. There are those that perceive some elements to have a negative impact on culture and the environment. There are also those, like me, who see an opportunity to develop the visitor market to benefit the local economy as a whole.

So the debate, whilst having its extremes and natural digressions form my original economic argument, has been a useful airing of positive proposals for development and some understandable concerns about reliance on the visitor income to sustain the valley. (A reliance which no one has actually argued for by the way!).

What seems clear to me is that firstly, the visitor market is established and is not going to go away. Secondly, top down tourism policy is perceived as that which encourages a blanket approach to getting any and all visitors to decend on the valley and that the people of our towns have little say in how the area is promoted. That has apparently led to some resentment, particularly towards the day visitors. In an attempt to remedy this I for one would be happy to work with Cllr James Baker's suggestion that a group or forum be established to manage or have a more representative input into the design and implementation of any promotional activity relating to our area. We already have some experience in this, in that there was a Tourism Action Group (TAG) established under the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance project. This was disbanded (probably prematurely) when it achieved one of its main aims, of getting Calderdale to re instate a post of Tourism Officer. The loss of TAG meant that there was a loss of influence over the direction promotion (or lack of it) which took place in the last 4-5 years. With moves to localisation in many policy areas, this would be an opportunity to regain influence over the promotional agencies dictating who comes to visit our valley, and hopefully defuse some of the fears that a vision of unmanaged tourism projects.

Thanks to everyone who contributed . . . So far! Feel free to contact me on this email link if you have any other relevant feedback, questions or constructive suggestions.


From Paul D

Monday, 8 August 2011

I think that one of the points Stephen makes is the one that concerns me the most; "What seems clear to me is that firstly, the visitor market is established and is not going to go away". A similar statement written in 1950 could read; "What seems clear to me is that the textile market is established and is not going to go away." Irrespective of whether we see tourism as good, bad or are completely indifferent, perhaps we should be wary of such assertions.

Similalry, the idea that we could regain some influence over those who dictate who come here (I'm assuming this means attracting richer visitors?) strikes me as an overclaim. What's clear is that household incomes are declining, unemployment is rising, all economic predictors point to a national belt tightening exercise over the next 1-5 years. So discretionary spending is going to be hit, and hit hard. Any strategic planning could include providing support for those currently working in the sector who may be spat out of it over the next 5 years and how to replace the void premises currently occupied by those who have become slightly too dependant on tourism locally.


From Phil M

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

If you are right Paul, and I do agree with you, the economic slow-down is going to rumble on for several years to come. Hebden being on a good trainline and having a good catchment area will therefore be attractive to alot of people who would have gone jetting off to fairer climes to instead come and enjoy the charms of Hebden. Therefore keeping the vibrancy of shops, pubs, eateries and general attractions open and doing well.
Airfairs will go up and up (and rightly so), petrol/diesel will continue to rise and peoples incomes will not match these rises, therefore people will rightly look to whats within reach to enjoy.

This weekend just gone, Hebden had the Vintage weekend and Todmorden had Todstock, both very different but very much enjoyed events by locals and by visitors alike. Both bringing revenue to the area . . . long may it continue!!

From Paul D

Thursday, 11 August 2011

I'm not sure Hebden Bridge is ever going to compete with a two week break in Goa, it's more likely that the economic downturn will hit tourism in general and hit those dependent on tourism spending the hardest. But I think this point is a valid one, my preference would be to build up the resilience of the local economy to the recession and as part of this rein in the tourist economy, but there's also a need to look at tourism in a more sustainable way. It's like taking a train to work in Manchester every day, the ideal solution would be to live and work in the same place, but as this isn't always possible and thus the train is the least worst option, being more sustainable than the car (ignoring the huge subsidies). So in the short and medium term, at least until we can agree (if we ever will) that tourism is environmentally, culturally, economically and socially either damaging or distorting, then opting for the least intrusive and least consuming forms of tourism is best.

In this case it may be worth discarding the macro level promotion and work with what's here already, for example, I'm no great fan of barge holidays, but environmentally they must be better than an all inclusive week in Turkey. I like how the campsite at Jack Bridge dovetails around an existing business, tack on some guided walks, cycling, riding, environmental or community activities and you could offer an experience that actually enhances the agricultural and wider community. Our reputation for 'quirkiness' and tolerance is actually based on hundreds of years of non-conformity, on attracting creative individuals, there must be many creative entrepreneurs who could be supported in providing opportunities to visitors that go beyond wandering around town with a cone of chips.

The barn at Bell Hole is an example of this, I think large rainwater catchment tanks should be a prerequisite of future such developments to prevent the draining of springs crucial to cattle, but this barn demands leaving the car behind (one hopes) and engaging with local history, culture and the local environment. If we have a USP as the nylon shirted sellers of fake dreams like to say, it's the environment, the people and the history. It's not a town full of small shops, that's just adspeak for there's nothing much to do except shop. So, if we have to promote tourism at all, it could be a sort that is less likely to destroy the very things people claim to come and visit. We don't have to prostitute ourselves to somebody else's cheap day out, long term all tourism is unsustainable, until we reach that point then reducing any negative impact of tourism here is perfectly sensible.