A LUXURY eco-holiday complex in a Northumberland beauty spot would make an important contribution to county tourism without damaging the landscape, the young entrepreneur behind the scheme claimed yesterday.
Sherod Walker, who wants to build the Waterfall Country Estate on 16 acres of open land near the A68 at Ridsdale in the North Tyne, told a planning appeal the zero-carbon development would blend into the picturesque landscape without harm.
Mr Walker, a 25-year-old Northumbrian, has taken the county council and the owners of a planned wind farm site to a public inquiry after being refused permission for the holiday centre.
The council and Wind Prospect Development Ltd, who are behind plans for a nearby windfarm with 18 wind turbines, are both opposing the plans.
They say it is “unsuitable and unsustainable” in a scenic landscape, above the permitted size limit for new-build development in open countryside and would conflict with the wind farm plans.
But on the first day of a two-day hearing in Hexham, Mr Walker told Government Inspector Malcolm Rivett that it was important to boost Northumberland’s tourism, which has suffered a 38% drop in business.
He said: “Visitors would be attracted by a sense of being in a relatively undeveloped part of Northumberland, and sending all our visitors to Kielder would not be to the benefit of the county.
“Kielder’s aspiration is to increase from 300,000 visitors a year to over 1,000,000, but Northumberland should have dispersed visitors across the county.” Viv Robinson, Northumberland County Council principal planning officer, said: “Our main issue is that it is a large-scale building in the countryside and our policy does not allow for large new-build development.”
Ian Bennett, a chartered engineer acting for Wind Prospects Ltd, said the company was concerned that if Waterfalls went ahead, there would be complaints from holidaymakers over the noise from the wind farm.
Mr Walker has won support from naturalist David Bellamy as well as Northumberland Tourism, economic development officers, and 300 local people.
The complex would boast 18 chalets, three cottages, a 16-horse equestrian centre, a lake, fitness suite, restaurant, shop and sauna. A biomass boiler, solar water-heating, rainwater harvesting and waste management system would make it a zero-carbon site.
It would create more than 100 construction jobs during building and 67 full-time jobs when complete.
An application for a smaller development on the Waterfalls site within 500 square metres of council planning limits, including three holiday cottages and two stables next to Mr Walker’s house at Waterfalls, was yesterday given the go-ahead. Mr Walker stressed this was not an alternative to his main application.