Tourism bosses gear up for July reopening – but say ‘we’re in limbo’

PUBLISHED: 06:55 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 06:55 19 May 2020

Bill and Deb Jordan, owners of Pensthorpe, pictured before the coronavirus outbreak. Pic: Archant

Bill and Deb Jordan, owners of Pensthorpe, pictured before the coronavirus outbreak. Pic: Archant

Tourist attractions across Norfolk are preparing for a July 4 reopening – but are calling for more guidance from the government.

Pensthorpe Natural Park. Pic: ArchantPensthorpe Natural Park. Pic: Archant

Owners and chief executives of venues having to remain closed say they need clearer information on when and how they can reopen.

All they say they know currently is the vague hope of a July 4 date, which the government has said is the earliest such attractions would open, making planning for a relaunch difficult.

Meanwhile many are looking at what they need to do to make it safe for visitors – from organising Perspex screens at tills, reducing gift shop stock, making food and drink a takeaway option, reducing queue time and organising contactless payment.

At Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham, one of its owners Deb Jordan said they too were hoping to reopen from July 4 but expected to do so in a limited capacity.

Vauxhall holiday park in Yarmouth. Pic: submittedVauxhall holiday park in Yarmouth. Pic: submitted

“We realise that our outdoor and indoor play areas may have to open later than that, so we are keeping an eye on the regular government updates, as well as listening to consumer confidence, to make that decision.

“Pensthorpe is, of course, mainly an outdoor attraction that provides plenty of wide open space, with tranquil walks and quiet corners that normally allows our visitors to get away from it all. The nature reserve is such a tonic for the soul and general health and wellbeing, we’ve been frustrated that we have been unable to share it with visitors who crave these simple but important pleasures. Also, with all of the birds hatching and everything coming to life, it’s such a shame our visitors have missed Pensthorpe being at its best in spring. We will be ready and waiting to welcome visitors again as soon as is safe to do so.”

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Holkham Hall. Pic: ArchantHolkham Hall. Pic: Archant

At Barnham Broom Hotel, Golf and Spa complex, which reopened its golf course last week after the government’s easing of those restrictions, a spokeswoman said they too were looking to July 4 to reopen the hotel to the public. Currently some bedrooms have been given over for use by NHS and key workers, she said.

Holiday parks were also hoping to be able to welcome back the general public from that date.

Vauxhall Holiday Park, in Yarmouth, has also provided free accommodation to 13 front line NHS workers from the East England Ambulance, James Paget University Hospital and Waveney Ambulance Depot.

After government instruction in March to shut the park, it was left empty, save for a handful of key security and maintenance staff.

So far, the park has had key workers stay for a combined total of 230 nights and an equivalent value of more than £16,000.

Rob Warner, operations director for Parkdean Resorts, said: “The vast majority of our Vauxhall team live in the local area so they’ve been keen to give back to the local community and in particular to support NHS staff who have been doing such an incredible job throughout the coronavirus crisis.”

Others, though, face a different problem of having too many people visit once they open their doors.

A spokesman from the Holkham Hall estate, which is currently closed, said it had been identified by North Norfolk District Council and Norfolk Police as an area of particular safety concern during the unlock phase.

As a result, many coastal car parks remain closed. “The Holkham Estate will not reopen car parks at Wells beach and at Lady Anne’s Drive in Holkham village until this can be done so at reduced capacity on a pre-booked basis. This approach is key to a phased and cautious plan which puts the safety of visitors, staff and the local community as our main priority.

“The one-mile approach road to Wells beach is a private road and the Holkham Estate has a responsibility for the safety of people using this land.

“The prospect of 100 plus cars parking along this road raises significant concerns for safe access to and from the beach. It also raises separate concerns for the coastal emergency services in the area. Holkham joins with North Norfolk District Council and others in requesting that people do not drive to Wells and to Holkham in order to enjoy access to the beaches.”

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