- Tourism is one of the main industries of Wessex, though by no means all of the money it generates remains in Wessex. Tourism can be of positive benefit to the economy, but as the work it provides is inherently seasonal and often low-wage and part-time we must be vigilant that our economy does not become over-dependent on visitors. Nor would it benefit us in the long-term if our environment were to be overloaded by the pressures that tourism brings.
- Wessex Regionalists favour the development of small-scale local tourism initiatives which are under local control and using local products and services. Initiatives such as farm holidays, activity and special interest breaks provide a significant boost to the Wessex economy all year round as well as employing skilled local people. We also support moves to encourage people to explore the countryside of Wessex and its historic, archaeological and cultural heritage. This sort of tourism is dispersed in small towns and villages throughout Wessex and often attracts people who are more likely to buy local products and support the culture and heritage of Wessex. This would also serve to lengthen the tourist season and reduce dependence on the weather. However, the traditional holiday areas should not be neglected. Much of the tourist infrastructure in our seaside resorts is old and there is a risk that their Victorian heritage will be lost without significant investment to provide it with a role relevant to modern times.
- Support for the arts is an essential part of all this. However, public funding of the arts is widely perceived to be too much under the control of the artists themselves, resulting in obscure, self-indulgent works alienating to ordinary people. We would wish to see patronage devolved to local level and for art to become much more a part of everyday life rather than something coldly detached from it. For example, there are ample opportunities for art and craft works to be incorporated into new buildings in the form of ceramic panels, stained glass or decorative ironwork as well as for the more traditional gallery works. New development can be beautiful. Where it is not, we should not hesitate to resist it.
- All development in Wessex should be human scale and appropriately designed to complement its surroundings, respecting local architectural traditions and using local materials wherever possible. Planning laws should be tightened to protect our historic market towns, villages and cottages. Conservation areas, intended to preserve and enhance local character, are often ineffective as a means to prevent the destruction of historic buildings. If consent to demolish is refused, the decision can be overturned by a Government inspector, applying selective national standards, with the result that councils often do not even try. We wish to see real safeguards put in place, with more weight given to local assessments of what is valued, irrespective of whether national experts agree.
A regionalist government in Wessex will:
- provide low-cost loans to local authorities to re-vitalise tourist attractions, particularly in rundown seaside resorts.
- strengthen planning protection for listed buildings, conservation areas and other heritage designations
Meanwhile, the Wessex Regionalists will:
- encourage the various Wessex arts councils and tourist boards to promote the growth of a regional identity and consciousness in the presentation of our region as a cultural whole
- promote a Wessex identity in sporting activities on a par with Scotland and Wales
- campaign for the return of historic and artistic treasures removed from Wessex, including the Domesday Book
- support the designation of Winchester as a World Heritage Site