Charles Hendry visits Ashdown Forest Tourism Association

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TOURISM is now the third largest industry in the UK – information that cheered members of the Ashdown Forest Tourism Association.

The size and scale of the industry was revealed by Charles Hendry MP, Energy and Climate Change Minister who spoke to members at their meeting at Hendalls Manor Farm, Herons Ghyll last Thursday.

He described opportunities to promote Britain over the next few years, including the Queen’s Jubilee, the London Olympics, Rugby League World Cup and Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2015.

Local people are to be more involved in planning development programmes and business rates will be collected locally and used to benefit local projects.

Mr Hendry said too-big rural development agencies have been replaced with schemes which help local colleges meet skills gap in critical areas like catering.

Bed and breakfasts are not asked for business rates until they operate on 140 nights a year and a differential has been created between small ones and larger, full-time businesses.

A ‘red tape’ challenge has been launched and ministers are being asked for feedback about unnecessary bureaucracy. Every new piece of legislation must now be balanced against the repeal of one of a similar size and these laws will have a five year life.

But AFTA members told Mr Hendry accommodation rating changes mean businesses must pay for new letterheads and websites. They also fear grants for small organisations such as AFTA require time to obtain them with a recent grant of under £10k requiring 60 hours work and then 30 hours to run the grant and reclaim the money. And the cost of obtaining annual accommodation rating is the same for a one-room B&B as it is for six bedrooms.