Can we afford to relax? Despite numerous crises, many UK holiday-makers have enjoyed their first proper breaks in three years. A growing number, however, are opting to try green sustainable vacations safe within Britain’s international borders … staycations.
This raises three questions. The first is can resort operators and owners provide the fun and value that customers, used to flying away to find the sunshine, now expect from UK breaks next to nature?
The second is can we cut costs, and the increasingly obvious climate change risks of flood, heat and drought? Thirdly, is there evidence to show that vacationers want green holiday breaks ‘at home’?
We believe the answer in each case is yes, and I want to show how sustainable solutions can be designed into new resort proposals, updates and extensions – and make consent applications with local planning authorities easier, swifter, and more successful.
Specifically, we have focussed on energy, water, plus how good landscape management can improve the vacation experience, protect local communities, and create an important climate change buffer.
Crisis? What crisis?
Soaring travel and energy costs, supply shortages, lingering Covid-19 doubts, war in Europe, a potential world debt crisis – plus a growing sense of personal responsibility for emissions and the environment – mean that more people are either literally staying at home, or at least within the UK.
However, ideal vacation experiences in this green and pleasant land do not always come naturally and we often need to give the environment a helping hand.
As one season ends, and clients and managers begin planning for the next, is a good time to reflect on what makes the perfect chalet, caravan, camping pod, hotel, or self-catering cottage staycation.
Helping green hand
As an environmental consultancy and planning consultancy, Enzygo (www.enzygo.www) regularly work with clients on a range of recreational, sport – golf course – commercial and industrial projects.
To date, our clients include Bourne Leisure, which operates the Haven, Butlin’s and Warner Leisure Hotels brands, and wants its four million guests to have “a great time with memories that last a lifetime” in attractive environments with expanding services and facilities (www.bournejobs.co.uk).
Another is Park Holidays UK, which with 43 locations is one of the UK’s largest holiday park operators and offers caravan and lodge holidays, glamping breaks, touring and camping, plus holiday home ownership in both country and coastal locations (www.parkholidays.com).
Our team of experts provide advice on bread and butter issues – but also the in-depth resilience preparations planning authorities now expect to see as storms, floods, power outages, and high winds, but also water shortages, heatwaves and droughts, become more common.
Home sweet green vacation home
The term ‘staycation’ has traditionally applied to holidays taken at home, perhaps with special days out. However, it has expanded more recently to cover any break that does not need a passport.
But individual people seek different things. Some enjoy city breaks. Many want to escape to peaceful rural settings with memorable views of coasts, moors or estuaries, plus privacy and/or club entertainment facilities, but definitely no need to make complex decisions for a few days or weeks.
However, for others sustainability means reducing their personal carbon footprint, travelling by non-fossil fuel transport, using water wisely, and reducing their impact on the natural world.
Diet can be a choice too, based on ethical considerations, but also the calculation that as ruminants UK dairy and beef herds, plus sheep flocks must fall by 20%, 20% and 33% respectively to meet methane targets (https://theconversation.com/the-uk-urgently-needs-to-cut-its-methane-emissions-by-2030-cows-and-sheep-hold-the-key-to-success-185621).
With creative thinking, many of these factors can be built into a resort’s staycation offer at the planning and design stage.
Tourism is Britain’s fastest growing industry. It employs two million people – a figure predicted to rise by 3.8% annually until 2025 when the value of vacations will reach more than £257 billion.
UK 2022 staycation destinations have included the West Country, Lake District, North Yorkshire, South and Mid-Wales, Northumberland, Dorset and East Anglia. Beaches, pubs, pet friendliness, hot tubs, enclosed gardens, games rooms, Wi-Fi, swimming pools, ‘luxury’, and seclusion have been listed as priorities.
Figures compiled in April 2020 but released recently by Google show 8.100 ‘staycation’ searches a month; the Tik Tok ‘staycation’ hashtag also had 800 million views, 60% from 16-24 years olds.
Google says 82% of us now think sustainability is more important than before the pandemic. Sustainable travel rose by 70% in 2021; 46% of flyers are ready to pay 2% extra for carbon neutral flights.
In addition, 50% of UK residents say seeing nature recover at first hand during the Covid-19 lockdown has made them more eco-conscious. Circa 77% will now consider the environment in future plans. Importantly, 25% of UK travellers also say sustainable accommodation and transport are important; 55% are now more likely to actively choose sustainable accommodation.
So the potential is huge!
Enzygo’s environmental services typically include environmental audits and environmental impact assessments (EIA), planning practice guidance, environmental management systems, plus advice on environmental permitting regulations (https://www.enzygo.com/planning/).
However, our director-led, integrated team approach from the design stage through to planning consent being granted, and on-site implementation, means that we can help companies to meet stringent contemporary environmental permitting regulations.
Low-carbon low-price energy
Renewable energy is an obvious starting point. With rising energy costs, but also security and availability in mind, green electricity can be bought from the national grid, but alternatively generated on-site by solar panels and wind turbines.
Enzygo has overseen the installation of many of these systems. Linked to large-scale batteries that can store both cheap off-peak mains power and renewable energy, they help to keep costs low.
Importantly, they also mean an independent electricity supply can be maintained which may be used to recharge the batteries … not of visitors themselves perhaps … but their electric vehicles (EVs)!
In future, we will also see the growing use of air- and ground-source heat pumps that, somewhat like refrigerators in reverse, collect outdoor warmth and transfer it indoors. Many modern heat pumps are able to work on a ‘reverse cycle’ that circulates cold air/water during heatwaves.
One other option that we are exploring on behalf of some clients is small local-scale hydropower to generate electricity from local rivers, weirs and waterways.
Water management is important in several ways and should be sustainable.
During heavy storms, good drainage – with storage to account for climate change – can be achieved with surface and sub-surface soakaways, detention basins, or buried French drain hard core systems.
This helps to prevent large discharges that can lead to flooding downstream (‘The Right and Wrong Way to Manage Severe Floods – https://www.enzygo.com/news/the-right-and-wrong-way-to-manage-severe-floods/’).
However, these systems are also great places for ensuring biodiversity net gain (BNG) (‘Planning for a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain’ – https://www.enzygo.com/news/planning-for-a-10-biodiversity-net-gain/) and nutrient neutrality (‘Nutrients neutralise new development in England’ – https://www.enzygo.com/hydrology/nutrients-neutralise-new-development-in-england/).
Flood risk assessments are key planning vehicles for delivering these solutions and can be enhanced further by rainwater harvesting systems which collect, store and put to non-potable uses the downpours that flow off roofs and hard surfaces that might otherwise be wasted.
We are also keen to discuss flood protection in our detailed flood risk assessments because of the far-reaching damage that river (fluvial), coastal, rainfall (pluvial), groundwater, sewer and aggressive surface flooding can cause.
Historically, the response has been to channel storm water away swiftly via hard infrastructure to rivers, estuaries, and on to the sea. That approach has changed.
Today’s erratic storms, sea level rises, sea surges, large areas of impermeable ground and industrial surfaces, vintage Victorian sewerage systems, plus the inadvisable use of vulnerable flood-plain land for residential development is overloading these old systems and making solutions difficult (‘Flood Plain – Mitigation vs Resilience’ – https://www.enzygo.com/news/flood-plain-mitigation-vs-resilience/).
It is also increasing the dangerous potential for flash floods of the type that have caused devastation around the world recently because of the late onset of a major La Niña climate change event in the western Pacific Ocean (https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ninonina.html).
– Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS)
Our new response is quite different. The SuDS (sustainable drainage systems) concept is to mimic natural hydrological processes by holding water back in many ‘small places’ – such as puddles, droplets, individual leaves, and blades of grass – as part of ‘source control’.
SuDS ties in with landscape management – explained below – and works best where ground is contoured carefully into shallow swales, reed beds, filter trenches, retention ponds, and basins that clean and store storm water temporarily. In some instances, green vegetated roofs can be used too.
Importantly, no artificial energy, pumps or pipes are needed; essential maintenance is often limited to just routine pruning and mowing.
The casual ‘staycationer’ will see attractive green, and probably moist spaces, for most of the time.
However, in very wet weather, the same ground forms a shallow infiltration basin that can hold and clean excess flood flows naturally until they dissipate back safely into the environment (‘Is torrential rain a valuable resource?‘ – https://www.enzygo.com/news/is-torrential-rain-a-valuable-resource/).
In planning applications, the visual impact and functionality of well thought out site layouts are important to local planning authorities with a duty to protect the interests of local communities and residents (https://www.enzygo.com/landscape/).
Where visual aspects are a problem, we use imaginative site layouts, and easy-on-the-eye creative colour schemes to lessen any impacts.
Solutions may include strategic shrub and tree planting (https://www.enzygo.com/arboriculture/), noise assessment surveys (https://www.enzygo.com/noise/), plus traffic survey and traffic management plans (https://www.enzygo.com/transport/) with road intersections and one-way systems designed to minimise any impacts on existing or anticipated future vehicle movements.
We also focus strongly on ecological issues to minimise any potential disturbance to vulnerable plant or animal habitats, and encourage biodiversity. Much of our work involves ecological impact assessments and tree surveys (https://www.enzygo.com/ecology/).
– Emergency warning and evacuation planning
As a final point, when the potential for serious flooding is high, Enzygo’s Flood Warning and Evacuation Plans (FWEPs) designed to safeguard lives and property can be important.
These go hand-in-hand with our Business Continuity Flood Assessments (BCFAs) to get site facilities up and running again swiftly. This ensures sustainable holiday locations are climate change resilient.
According to Shakespeare
It has been tempting in this post to quote from William Shakespeare’s Richard II, and specifically the words of John of Gaunt: – “This other Eden, demi-paradise”, “This precious stone set in the silver sea,” and “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this …” … he actually said England, though British Isles – there are 6,000 of them – might be more appropriate today.
Against events in the wider world, his other reference to “This fortress built by Nature for herself, against infection and the hand of war” may sound ominous in the short-term.
However, the long-term future of peaceful staycations seems set to become even more appealing.
As always, if you would like to discuss any of the points raised above, please feel free to contact one of us directly.
Scott Dawson, Principal Hydrologist, Enzygo Ltd.
See the LinkedIn article – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/planning-staycations-lifetime-enzygo-limited/