Ash pile given go-ahead prior to leisure resort

CONTENTIOUS plans to store huge quantities of waste power station ash at a former opencast mining site near Widdrington have been given the go-ahead.

The plan to import 420,000 tonnes of pulverised fuel ash (PFA) to Steadsburn is the first stage in a multi-million pound holiday and leisure development at the site, Blue Sky Forest.

Active Leisure Resorts intends to use the waste material to build an artificial ski-slope as part of the leisure facilities.

Councillors at Tuesday’s Northumberland County Council planning and environment and rights of way committee approved the plan to bring in the ash over a six-month period, with a condition that work would not start until a full planning application for the leisure development had been submitted and validated by the council.

This will be underpinned by a legal contract after concerns were raised over what could happen if the full development doesn’t go ahead.

Chris Davies, Chief Executive Officer of Active Leisure Resort, said: “If you give your support, Active Leisure Resorts will create one of the most exciting leisure resorts to be built in Britain for decades.”

He added that he ‘apologised if the application has led to any confusion or mistrust’ by being separate from the full Blue Sky Forest application.

He said: “There are other sites that would be suitable for our development but this is the site we and I personally want.”

Four parish councils objected to the application in terms of noise, dust and water pollution.

But any fears councillors had were allayed by the Environment Agency.

Coun Ian Swithenbank proposed acceptance of the scheme because of Active Leisure’s pledge to delay the start of work until the full planning application is submitted.

The £50million tourist scheme would provide 700 jobs with outdoor attractions including 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.

Accommodation is in a four-star luxury holiday village with 400 two, three and four-bedroom ecolodge holiday homes, some with integrated patios and hot tubs, to 100 ultra modern camping pods aimed at younger guests.

A state-of-the-art plaza at the hub of the resort will house restaurants, coffee shops, bars and cafés and specialist retail outlets, as well as an adventure fun pool and climbing walls.

After the approval Mr Davies said: “Obtaining planning permission for this initial build phase means work will soon start on the ground, which after all this time is clearly very exciting for us.

“Active Lifestyle will be one of the most original and exciting leisure experiences to have been created in Britain for decades, bringing pleasure to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

“It will deliver huge economic benefits to the region and raise national awareness of a beautiful part of the country.”