Tourism is a vital part of our economy here in North Devon. We are blessed with some of the best beaches in the country, if not the world, and exquisite wide-open spaces in Exmoor and the surrounding countryside.
Moving into phase one beyond lockdown has only changed the amount of time we are able to spend outside exercising and that we can travel to do that. Every step of this process has been guided by science and we must balance our personal fears with the reality of the risks involved. I have been inundated with correspondence in the past 24 hours about unlimited travel and I hope we can all reflect on the following facts:
- Overnight stays are still not allowed under the current restrictions – so only day trippers will be coming.
- Pubs, restaurants, cafés and in many cases car parks and public toilets are still closed which will reduce the numbers planning a journey, and definitely the duration of their stay.
- With social distancing and being outdoors the risk of transmission of the virus is minimal which is why increased exercise outside is being permitted.
- The risk of transmission does not increase with the length of journey undertaken.
- There really is plenty of space here in North Devon, and the public in the main, throughout this crisis have acted responsibly.
- The health benefits to the rest of the nation of being able to get outside and enjoy the outdoor space that we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep should not be forgotten.
My role as MP is to represent my constituents and I have today written to the Prime Minister detailing the concerns that have been raised. However, these concerns are not universal, and we must recognise the importance of beginning to relax some of the regulations that have been in place this far.
To highlight this, a poignant extract from an email I received, which can help us all reflect on this:
“I grew up in North Devon and my entire family are there except me because I am a key worker and therefore unable to go home.
Instead of at home in Devon with the beach and endless countryside on my doorstep, I have spent my lockdown in a small flat, hundreds of miles from the remainder of my family and without access to any green space beyond a small local park. I use residential and main roads for exercise because there is literally nowhere else. I used to drive home every other weekend so this is the longest I have ever been away - my parents are elderly, I worry about them constantly and I miss my family, the countryside and the beach more than I could ever have imagined. Every single thing that I love is out of reach right now and these have been some of the hardest weeks of my life.
I think many of the population in North Devon do not understand just what lockdown means to people who don't have the luxury of miles of beaches, moors and country walks on their doorstep. Or even a glimpse of a hill or field in the view from their window.”
I have written to the Chancellor and Tourism Minister with details of my concerns for our tourism businesses here in North Devon. Even with the generous extension to the furlough scheme announced today they are likely to need additional assistance with this year’s season already curtailed.
I have also listened to views of residents and my tourism survey has been separately sent to Ministers as well as the media. It clearly shows residents’ concerns, however, the science also now shows that the benefits outweigh the risks of exercising outdoors in a socially distant manner and this was the kind of reassurance residents sought.
Our tourism businesses will not begin to reopen before early July, and that is only if the science and rate of infection permit. I will continue to work tirelessly to balance the views of constituents with the economic necessities of our region and the health of us all through this unprecedented period.
The full government guidance is available online here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy
and answers to the most common questions are here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do.
A summary of the results can be found at the bottom of this page.
This maps show the distribution of participants across North Devon
|Survey Results Summary||248.21 KB|