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Friday, 29 May 2015

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Tynedale: Wall tourism will survive trust crash

TYNEDALE’S tourism industry has been assured that Hadrian’s Wall remains in good hands – despite the demise of the organisation charged with promoting it as a destination for UK and international holiday-makers.

Hadrian’s Wall Trust announced on Monday it will fold over the next six months due to funding cutbacks.

But other organisations with an interest in the World Heritage Site have rallied round to safeguard marketing activities, which will ensure the World Heritage site remains one of the country’s most popular attractions.

English Heritage, Natural England and Northumberland County Council, which all part funded the trust, are developing a new management plan, working alongside Northumberland National Park and other local authorities along the Wall.

English Heritage’s decision to pull the plug was the last straw for the trust.

English Heritage’s Henry Owen-John stressed it would be business as usual for services and facilities for both visitors and local businesses.

He said: “The most important thing for all of us is the preservation and maintenance of this hugely important historical monument.

“We are all committed to ensuring it continues to be an international success, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

“We are doing all we can to introduce effective new arrangements to protect and promote Hadrian’s Wall and maintain the National Trail.

“Tourists, visitors, businesses and local people should rest assured that Hadrian’s Wall is in good hands and that all the partners involved understand and appreciate its rich and famous heritage.”

Hadrian’s Wall Trust was formed two years ago when the former Hadrian’s Wall Heritage, initially set up in 2006, switched to charitable status.

It was created to facilitate all aspects of promoting tourism for the benefit of the local economy, and to help safeguard the Wall’s archaeology and surrounding landscape.

But there were frequent questions raised about its effectiveness and scale of its running costs.

One of its biggest tourism drives was in September 2012, when 400 digital artwork balloons spanned the length of the wall, for a festival to celebrate the London Olympics.

It also led the Lighting of the Wall event in 2010, which illuminated the entire length with beacons.

In a statement, the trustees of Hadrian’s Wall Trust said this week: “In the context of ever increasing pressure on public funding, the Hadrian’s Wall Trust, like many other organisations, has had to look closely at its business model.

“We are working together to produce a strategy that will ensure the core responsibilities of the trust can be sustained and the legacy of its fine work preserved for the future.”

With a large section of the wall running through Northumberland National Park, its chief executive Tony Gates has outlined NNP’s commitment to the new partnership approach, which includes all local authorities along the Wall corridor.

He said: “The national park authority will, where required, take an active role to ensure business as usual for the World Heritage Site, the national trail, and visitor facilities and services.”

Nigel Jarvis, of the Heart of Hadrian’s Wall Tourism Association, which promotes tourism businesses along the Wall in Tynedale, said: “We promote this middle section of the Wall and its businesses, and we are very much here to help us all to work together.

“Hadrian’s Wall Trust has worked extremely hard and I am sorry for its staff that the trust will be wound up.”

New community group, Wall Together, which encourages communication among those with an interest in the Wall, has called for a “coherent Wall-wide management approach.”

A spokesman said: “A great number of businesses, organisations and communities depend heavily on the national trail’s good management. Wall Together sees the next few months as crucial for the future.”