Residents back £50m leisure resort

RESIDENTS and businesses have given enthusiastic support to plans for a £50million leisure and tourism resort near Widdrington.

More than 80 people came along to Druridge Bay Community Centre in Hadston on Saturday and Sunday to find out more about the UK’s first Active Lifestyle Resort, which is being built on an 800-acre reclaimed former surface mine site.

The short-break adventure facility, which will create up to 700 jobs, will offer a range of holiday packages and day visitor attractions.

This includes some snow slopes complete with Free Ski elements to Olympic standards, gorges and canyons, mountain bike trails, a 50-acre lake and off-road vehicle courses.

Indoor activities will include climbing walls, a fitness centre and a water park and there will also be a building that will house restaurants, coffee shops, bars and cafes, specialist retail outlets and a range of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Entrepreneur Chris Davies has been working on the project for the past eight years, supported by his sons Ben and Greg, and they were at the exhibition to field questions from those attending.

He said: “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 man-made adventure slopes. But the people I met, a good cross-section of local families and businesspeople, 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 highways department at Northumberland County Council.”

The planning application for the initial phase is being lodged this week, with a full application for the entire scheme to follow next spring.

The project was developed from initial plans put forward by the Widdrington Regeneration Partnership (WRP). Although the organisations involved in the WRP welcome the scheme, they were very disappointed with what they believe was a lack of recognition of their input at the public launch.

Other developments for the former UK Coal site include Peel Energy’s nine-turbine windfarm, which received planning permission from the county council’s Planning and Environment Committee last month. This decision has been criticised by Pegswood county councillor David Woodard, who is a member of the North Area Planning Committee.

He said: “Surely no-one would allow nine large structures to be built in such a beautiful, undeveloped and treasured rural landscape – or would they?

“With permission already given for four turbines 1,000m away to the south west of Widdrington Village, I believe these turbines will have an unacceptable cumulative impact on the residents.”