A major new tourist development in Northumberland could create 130 jobs if it gets the green light next week.
Plans for a large holiday park on the former Steadsburn opencast mine site, between Widdrington and West Chevington, are recommended for approval at next Tuesday’s meeting of the county council’s strategic planning committee.
Councillors are being asked to make a decision on a hybrid application, seeking full planning permission for the scheme’s first phase and outline approval for the second stage.
Phase one is for the creation of a holiday park with up to 275 static caravan pitches, 200 all-weather pitches for tourers/tents, a two-storey main building, a toilet/shower block, a workshop building, 475 parking spaces, outdoor play provision including a play area and lakeside beach, water-based leisure activities plus roads, footpaths and landscaping.
The main building would include a swimming pool, sauna, indoor play space, catering facilities, reception/office accommodation, beauty treatments floorspace, a laundry area and a small shop.
The phase two works would comprise a further 475 bases for holiday homes and a nine-hole golf course with a lakeside café, all in a woodland setting.
The report to councillors explains that it is envisaged that the proposed development would generate 100 full-time and 30 part-time jobs, while the various leisure facilities would be open to non-residents too.
The proposals have not sparked any objections, but there are some outstanding issues to thrash out.
Widdrington Village Parish Council ‘supports the development in principle, but with reservations/concerns regarding traffic impacts, reinstatement of public footpaths, geotechnical risks, visitor demographics and the need for more extensive consultation with local residents’.
The RSPB, the county ecologist and the council’s flooding team have all asked for more information, while the rights-of-way team ‘object to the proposals in their current form unless a successful application is made to divert (a number of public footpaths) prior to work commencing on site’.
Nonetheless, planning officers conclude that ‘significant benefits would arise’ from the scheme through ‘the creation of substantial employment both during the construction phase and within the proposed development once operational and the significant additional spending within the local economy that would arise from the proposals’.
Therefore, it is recommended that the committee members are minded to approve the bid, subject to no final objections from the ecologist and footpaths team.
The applicant and adjacent landowner will also have to contribute £271,200 for coastal mitigation, further ecology mitigation in respect of Maiden’s Hall Lake to the north and compensatory bridleway provision.
Callaly Leisure Ltd submitted the hybrid application for what it is calling Chevington Castle Holiday Park, on land south of West Chevington Farm Cottages, at the end of last year.
Mining on the site ceased in 2011 and from then until 2014, the site was ‘partially restored to low-quality agricultural land with three man-made lakes/water bodies’.
A planning statement submitted with the application says: ‘There has been a long-standing aim within the local area of creating a year-round major tourism and leisure destination on the site of the former complex of surface coal mines in the Widdrington Station/Ulgham area’, which was dubbed Blue Sky Forest under a previous proposal that was set to include an artificial ski slope.
It adds that the council still supports this type of development of the site and ‘Callaly Leisure sees this site as a perfect starting point to create a bespoke tourism and leisure attraction that would be compatible with and optimise the landform created from the restored surface coal site and that would deliver many of the long-standing ambitions for the site’.
As well as the direct and indirect jobs, the report also highlights that the development would attract around 143,000 additional overnight visitors each year and generate around £7-£8million in visitor spend in the local economy.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service