Work will start within weeks on a new multimillion-pound holiday park in Northumberland, breathing life into a former opencast coal mining site.
Park Holidays UK first unveiled plans for Widdrington Lakes Holiday Park last year, when it applied for planning permission to transform a section of the former Steadsburn opencast coal mining site into a holiday destination to join its sister site at Amble, The Links. The company secured full planning permission for up to 275 static caravan pitches and 200 all-weather pitches for tourers and tents, while also gaining outline planning permission for 475 more bases for holiday homes and a cafe.
Its plans were made possible when it acquired the 300-plus acre site last year from Callaly Leisure, driving plans to add to its existing portfolio of more than 40 sites across the UK. The construction of Widdrington Lakes will be carried out in phases, with the first phase starting soon, before construction of the facilities overlooking the two lakes at the site starts in autumn, ahead of a planned opening to first guests next year.
The larger of the two lakes welcomes migratory birds every year, so the group is working with Northumberland Wildlife Trust to protect the habitats. Facilities will include a club, children’s play area and indoor swimming pool, leading down to the smaller of the two lakes. Holiday homes, in a range of two and three bedroom homes manufactured by a Hull company, will have views over the water and will be developed as the park scales up.
The company is also sourcing local contractors and local produce wherever possible, to deliver a maximum boost to the local economy.
Recruitment drives will also start to employ staff – including full time and seasonal staff – in operational and management roles across the park. It will initially be run in conjuncion with teams at The Links in Amble, who will be involved.
Open cast mining came to an end at the site, which is close to Widdrington village, around 12 years ago – and Tony Clish, director at the growing leisure business, said Park Holidays UK can’t wait to get started.
He said: “It’s very exciting, I’m a proud North Eastener now down South so it’s great to be able to invest in an area I come from, and great we are converting what was a brownfield site into something which helps the local economy and helps tourism in the North East.
“It will take several years to develop, so we’re starting on the first phase very soon. Some finer details have to be worked out with the local authority but the intention is to be open for the public from the spring of next year.
“It’s a great location because it’s very close to Druridge Bay, so it’s close to the coast but is also inland and very accessible to further up the coast, to Alnwick and the region as a whole. We expect to attract visitors from throughout the whole of the UK but to also have holiday home owners from the North East to spend their weekends and longer periods, a drive away to esape for some peace and quiet, to enjoy a great location with great facilities.”
“I think in the next few weeks we’ll see work start. The first stage is putting in a new access road, as well as commencing first stages of the building of the bases for holiday homes when they arrive, and then we’ll be starting the early stages of building the club house over the autumn period. Watch this space, there will be a lot going on.”
The site had formerly been the planned location for the Blue Sky Forest, an ambitious project that aimed to create hundreds of jobs with an “adrenaline seeker’s dream” that would have included an indoor ski facility, mountain biking and water sports facilities, and luxury lodges. The plans did not come to fruition, however.
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