Community backs Blue Sky Forest adventure park near Widdrington say developers

A DEVELOPMENT company which is leading a £50m tourism and leisure project aimed at creating 700 jobs in Northumberland says its plans have been enthusiastically received by locals.

The site near Widdrington of the proposed Blue Sky Forest adventure holiday park. Insest, artist's impression of the ski slope
The site near Widdrington of the proposed Blue Sky Forest adventure holiday park. Insest, artist's impression of the ski slope

A DEVELOPMENT company which is leading a £50m tourism and leisure project aimed at creating 700 jobs in Northumberland says its plans have been enthusiastically received by locals.

Last month Active Leisure unveiled its ambitious proposals to create the UK’s first Active Lifestyles Resort on 800 acres of restored opencast land near Widdrington, north of Morpeth.

The short break adventure park – which is planned to open in summer 2015 – will include a 50-acre lake; snow slopes, gorges and canyons; mountain bike trails; off-road vehicle courses and the UK’s biggest tree house adventure playground.

Outdoor attractions will include equestrian, fishing, skiing, water sports, high ropes courses, woodland adventure activities and 4x4 off roading, while indoor facilities include climbing walls, a fitness centre, water park and spa.

Plans for the resort also include accommodation in a four-star luxury holiday village, ranging from 100 camping pods to 400 eco-lodge holiday homes, some with integrated patios and hot tubs.

Now Active Leisure says its vision has been welcomed by local people and businesses at a two-day public exhibition in Hadston at the weekend, which was attended by more than 80 residents.

Entrepreneur Chris Davies, who has been working on the project for eight years with his sons Ben and Greg, was at the exhibition to answer people’s questions.

Yesterday he said a planning application for the first phase of the scheme will be lodged with the county council this week, with an application for the full project to follow next spring.

“The purpose of the exhibition was actually to inform the community about the initial phase, which will create the new land formation for the UK’s first manmade adventure slopes,” said Mr Davies. “However, the people I met, a good cross-section of local families and business people, were just interested in the bigger picture.

“The vast majority who attended were really enthusiastic about the plans, and particularly the hundreds of jobs the resort will create. They can see the benefit it will bring to the local community.

“The other issue which generated a lot of questions was access to the site from the A1, which is the subject of discussions with the county council highways department.”

The project would be a partnership between Active Leisure Resorts, Harworth Estates and landowners UK Coal.

It is estimated the complex could attract up to 300,000 day visits and 350,000 paid nights a year once it opens.

The development would result in the fruition of the Blue Sky Forest regeneration project devised by local people more than a decade ago.

A hub at the centre of the resort will house restaurants, coffee shops, bars and cafes and specialist retail outlets including outdoor stores, while an enterprise emporium will accommodate high quality local small and medium-size enterprises, offering local produce, arts and crafts, clothing and health and beauty treatments. Other developments on the land include a nine-turbine wind farm, which was granted planning approval last month, and further leisure and tourist attractions in the long-term.

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