The Welsh Coast Path – 870 miles of active transportation holiday – generating $24 million to the Welsh economy the first year.
By Vera Adams – Faculty Representative
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning, Ball State University
August brings to mind two things for most Americans – Summer Vacation and Back to School. With our upcoming Fall Conference focused on “Designing Healthy Communities” and everyone concerned about economic development, I have chosen the topic that I hope will weave all these interest together.
One of my summer goals while in Wales was to get in shape and loose the weight I gain every winter commuting from my home in Indy to BSU in Muncie. Part of my plan includes the Welsh Coast Path that opened last year and is changing the way Wales recreates.
Where can you find a £16 million ($24mil USD) annual economic development return on a £2 million ($3mil USD) annual public investment (national) and a $6 million onetime investment (regional)? Wales!
These are the input and outputs of the Welsh Coastal Path, which opened in May 2012 and forms the core of a national Welsh economic-health-heritage strategy. National Geographic named it the 2nd Best Coastal Destination in the World, Lonely Planet called it the World’s Top Destination in 2012, and the New York Times reported it in the Travel Section in May 2013.
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence for exemplary rural planning and the coveted Silver Jubilee Cup for 2013 based on criteria including innovation, processes, techniques, information systems, programmes of community involvement and improvement to public services. The judges said the path was an “inspiration” to planners.
The Welsh Coast Path (WCP) is an 870-mile, public access walking path, the first of its kind in the world. It follows the Welsh Coast from Queensbury in the north to Chepstow in the south. Some of the sections are narrow and steep suitable only for walking, some sections are flat and wide suitable for use by families with children (even in prams) and the disabled, some of the section are perfect for bicyclists. Some of the path existed before. Some of it runs along country roads because landowners denied public access through their property. All of it meets the Welsh Government goals to increase public access to the coast and to encourage healthy lifestyles and fitness for the Welsh people. All sections are accessible (free!) to everyone.
The WCP links to the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail that follows the border with England to form a continuous 1030-mile route around most of Wales. In the future, circular coastal routes are planned to like the coast path to towns and villages inland. Already maps exist to indicate National Trust and CDRW castles and heritage sites of interest along the way.
Yet, it is not just a path; it is a national economic development and health care strategy.
Organization and Investment
The Welsh Assembly Government, the Countryside Council for Wales, 16 local authorities and two National Parks coordinated efforts to develop the 870-mile continuous path around the coast of Wales starting in 2006 with a deadline of 2012.
The Welsh government’s Coastal Access Improvement Programme (CAIP) funding of £2 million ($3mil USD) per year since 2006 and has been backed by the European Regional Development Fund of £3.9m ($6mil USD) over 3 years since 2009. Delivery of the Coast Path project is coordinated by the Countryside Council for Wales and
delivered on the ground by the local authorities through which it passes.
The All Wales Coast Path will ensure improved public access to the coast line and encourage people to live more healthy and active lifestyles, thus helping in Wales’ efforts to become a fitter, healthier nation.
Return on Public Investment
In the first year, 2.8 million people used part of the path, contributing £16 million ($24mil USD) to the Welsh economy, with an estimated 800,000 people staying over night a local B&B, guesthouse or hotel along the route.
Dan Clayton Jones, Chair of the Wales Tourism Advisory Board, reported that “Figures from the Great Britain Tourism survey 2012 show that overnight visitors to the coastline and beaches of Wales spent £572 million.” Project was first conceived as a means to build on economic success of Pembrokeshire Coast path in North West Wales. “
“Every pound spent brings forth 10 times health benefits and tourism income to local communities around Wales, says Chairman of Countryside Council. “Citizens are encouraged to get healthy and get active.”
All indication are that the Welsh Coastal Path is well on its way to being an economic engine for Wales – a healthy, active transportation engine for a country as burdened by health issues for its citizens’ as the US.
In planning your trip there are 109 maps available for download or printing at
http://www.walescoastpath.gov.uk For guided tours in small friendly groups –
http://www.seewales.com/ And there’s an App for that! Diolch! (Thank you!)