Developers behind a £50m, 700-job holiday and leisure complex in Northumberland say they are disappointed at a delay in their plans to start the ambitious project.
Active Leisure Resorts wants to import 420,000 tonnes of waste power station ash to a former opencast mine near Widdrington, and use the material to build an artificial ski slope.
The work is the first phase of the proposed Blue Sky Forest adventure park – which also includes a luxury holiday village, 100 camping pods, a water park and spa, the UK’s largest tree house adventure playground, a fitness centre, 50-acre lake and 400 eco-lodge holiday homes.
Active Leisure also wants to create gorges, bike trails and off-roader courses alongside sports such as fishing, horse riding and water sports.
The firm wants to bring in the waste ash over six months, so it is ready to start making the ski slope as it seeks approval for the overall holiday complex. But now county councillors have put the brakes on by deciding to hold a site visit before deciding on the ash importation.
Objections were submitted by four parish councils, which question the need to use waste fuel ash and have concerns about what will happen to the huge stockpile of material if the Blue Sky Forest vision doesn’t come to reality.
County council planning and environment committee members voiced fears that a ï¿½220,000 financial bond to ensure restoration of the Steadsburn site would be insufficient if the fuel ash ultimately had to be disposed of.
Yesterday Active Leisure’s chief executive officer Chris Davies said: “After many years getting to this stage, the whole team is keen to get work started on the build phase for the resort, which is going to create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of pounds of inward investment for Northumberland. So we are naturally disappointed at the inevitable delay caused by the request for a site visit by members of the planning committee.
“However, the onus is on us to demonstrate to councillors how this initial phase fits into the overall master plan, and why we have submitted this application first. This is to enable us to get the land preparation works for the adventure slopes under way while we continue to prepare the full planning application, which will include a significant period of consultation with the local community.
“We are confident we can answer any questions and allay any concerns raised by councillors at the site visit, and hopefully secure their support for the initial build phase at the earliest opportunity.”
Widdrington resident David Gair, speaking for all the parishes, told the committee: “Why do we need to bring this stuff to an opencast site with millions of tonnes of material available already, and plenty to build a ski slope?”
Moving a site visit, Coun Bernard Pidcock said: “I feel I’m being asked to approve an application to dump 420,000 tonnes of ash at Widdrington, which would be the latest in a plague of things to be put on this community.”