Water boost for tourism

THE PRESTIGIOUS Inland Waterways Festival could come to Huntingdonshire in 2007, attracting as many as 10,000 visitors. The annual Summer Bank Holiday event, the biggest in the inland waterways calendar, has never been held on the River Great Ouse, though

THE PRESTIGIOUS Inland Waterways Festival could come to Huntingdonshire in 2007, attracting as many as 10,000 visitors.

The annual Summer Bank Holiday event, the biggest in the inland waterways calendar, has never been held on the River Great Ouse, though it once took place on the River Nene in the north of the district.

The Environment Agency, which looks after both rivers, is now talking to riparian landowners in the district about where the event could be staged.

The attraction would bring an important boost to the local tourist economy. Ironically, word slipped out on the day that businesspeople in the district took Huntingdonshire District Council to task over plans to abandon direct public access to Huntingdon's tourist information centre.


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The centre, which is situated in the town's library in Princes Street, near the bus station, will close when the library moves later this year to temporary premises behind the police station in Dryden House as part of a £30million redevelopment scheme.

There will be no place for the tourist office in the replacement library building that should open on the present site some time next year.

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Although face-to-face tourist information will cease then, the council hopes to resume personal service at the replacement HDC headquarters on the Pathfinder House site in Huntingdon. That is expected to be completed in 2009.

The Environment Agency's waterways manager, John Adams, said he was in the early stage of discussions with several landowners about possible sites for the boating spectacular.

"We are very keen to attract it," he told The Hunts Post. "It draws boats from all over the country."

They would add to the 3,500 craft already on the Great Ouse, nearly all of them privately owned.

"There are some people who cruise all summer," he added, "and we are really very keen to promote the Ouse."

In the face of criticism of the plan to abandon face-to-face tourism contacts, the council's new leader, Councillor Ian Bates, said most requests for tourism advice were now made via the internet.

Chief executive David Monks stressed that tourism was extremely important to the district's economy, but he believed it would be at least two years before a credible face-to-face contact could be re-established in the town.

* St Neots will retain its staffed tourist information centre. The decision to withdraw the facility from Huntingdon between closure and demolition of the library building and opening of the customer service centre in Huntingdon was taken in February last year.

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