Reopen self-catering holiday cottages to boost rural economy, business association urges

13 May 2020, 10:14 | Updated: 13 May 2020, 10:15

File photo: The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says reopening rural businesses with measures in place to reduce infection risks could help boost the national economy
File photo: The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says reopening rural businesses with measures in place to reduce infection risks could help boost the national economy. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

Some countryside businesses such as self-catering holiday cottages should be allowed to reopen early in a bid to restart the rural economy, it has been urged.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says reopening rural businesses with measures in place to reduce infection risks could help boost the national economy.

It has welcomed the updated guidance from the Government to encourage businesses that can reopen safely to do so, with president Mark Bridgeman saying it would help spur supply chains and get rural trades going again.

And the organisation, which represents rural businesses, including 5,000 tourism companies in the countryside, said it wanted to see lower-risk operations such as self-catering accommodation to be reopened.

Their comments came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was unlikely Brits would be able to go on foreign holidays this summer.

In a briefing paper, the CLA said self-catering accommodation should be able to open early if customers can access them using their own vehicles, they are let to people in the same household, and do not involve shared facilities that bring them into contact with others.

Measures would also be needed to ensure that staff cleaning cottages on changeover day were safe.

The CLA said there should be a self-certification system that owners could mark off against a set of guidelines covering things such as social distancing on entry, exit and on site, disinfection and laundering standards.

Self-catering accommodation could reopen even without the other facilities for people on holidays, such as pubs and restaurants, suggested Victoria Vyvyan, CLA vice president and chief executive of a Cornish tourism business.

"The healthfulness of having open spaces around you when you've been in lockdown is an enormous incentive for people to get out into the countryside.

"They have no real need to have contact with anybody," she said.

"It's easy to adhere to social distancing rules when you're in a cottage you've arrived at in a vehicle that you've driven yourself and you can order your food from a local Cornish food box company for example who delivers your food, it's an achievable end."

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Large private gardens and National Trust properties in the countryside are still closed, while national parks have raised concerns about visitors flocking back to beauty spots.

Mr Bridgeman suggested that in the coming months, organisations would need to make risk assessments about reopening sites and the self-certification system would help them go through the checks they needed.

He said the countryside had advantages in being able to more easily provide space for people to adhere to social distancing rules than in cities.

"If you're out in the fresh air, on a footpath, on a bridleway, you can socially distance pretty easily a lot more than you can if you're in an urban area, in a local park."

Ms Vyvyan added the "dull solution" to the issue of potential overcrowding in the countryside was car parks.

"The greater number of car parks that can be opened by the national parks, the National Trust, by all the people for example that have the coastal car parks, the thinner the spread of people wanting very genuinely to get some fresh air and recreation."

The CLA also wants to see measures such as reduced VAT for tourism businesses so they are attractive to customers and continued financial support for companies.

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