PLANS to develop the world’s largest potash mine under the North York Moors could hit the number of tourists coming to the area by up to 15 per cent, according to a new report.
Research commissioned by the national park authority estimated the drop in visitor numbers during the construction phase would equate to a loss of 1,570,651 tourism days and £40.78m in direct tourist expenditure per year.
But York Potash, which hopes to create the mine, disputed the findings and also pointed to the findings of research commissioned by Yorkshire’s tourist agency which found businesses largely welcomed potential economic benefits.
Members of North York Moors National Park Authority are due to meet today to discuss the proposals ahead of the key planning committee meeting on July 2 when a final decision is expected to be made.
The research found that during the construction phase 74 per cent of visitors would continue to visit the national park, but may avoid the area near the development. A further 13 per cent said they would visit less often while 10 per cent said that they would go elsewhere altogether.
Once the mine opened, 14 per cent of survey respondents said they were unlikely to visit the area, with another 23 per cent unsure.
Tourism is a key income generator in the area and the research stated that although the impact is unknown “the loss of some tourism businesses must be expected”, particularly during the construction stage.
The report also warned: “However, if the development produces more negative impacts than currently envisaged (eg it has a greater visual impact than expected or stated in the background information, or the natural beauty of the area is adversely affected) then the impact on visitors’ willingness to visit once any proposed development is operational is likely to be more extreme.”
Chris Fraser, chief executive of Sirius Minerals, which owns York Potash, pointed out that only nine per cent of visitors questioned were aware of the York Potash project before being surveyed.
He added: “The leading regional tourism body [Welcome to Yorkshire] has also published its own research which confirms considerable support for the project and shows that tourism businesses believe the weather and economy are far more important factors on their businesses.
“In full production the York Potash project can add over £1bn to the economy on an annual basis, with 1,000 jobs in the local economy and an annual contribution to the local economy of £55m during the construction phase and up to £940m at full production.”