Lancaster City Council has been flooded with letters from opponents of a £50m project to build a Center Parcs-style eco-tourism destination with 450 holiday lodges and a 90-bedroom hotel.
The developer behind the project is Ellel Holiday Village, a sister business of Lancaster-based M Capital Investment Partners. It lodged outline plans with the city council in January to progress the scheme, which would be set within woodland and wetland walkways close to Lancaster Canal on land once owned by the Sandeman family’s Ellel Grange Estate.
M Capital has worked with Susie Charles, a direct descendant of the Sandeman port dynasty, to develop plans for the holiday village. Charles this week stepped down as chairman of Lancashire County Council and as county councillor for Lancaster Rural East after having served as a local councillor for 20 years. A decision on the planning application is expected in August.
Subject to consent, the resort would open in 2023 as “one of the most eco-friendly holiday parks ever built in the UK”, according to the developer. The proposed hotel has been designed to merge with the landscape with a grass roof, while attractions are to include an artisan marketplace and wildlife centre where woodland walks are combined with 21st century technology to provide an immersive experience for visitors.
The artisan marketplace would see artisans encouraged to set up shop and trade their wares. The scheme would scrap turnover rents, according to the developer, and instead allow tenants to pay a percentage of their turnover to the landlord “to encourage entrepreneurship”.
The developer said it has pledged to plan more than 30,000 trees at the site to achieve a 15% biodiversity net gain, as part of plans for the project to become carbon neutral. E-bikes and electric buggies will be used to move around the site, and other technologies may include virtual and augmented reality elements.
One of the most eye-catching areas of the development could be at the former quarry on the site, where there are plans to erect a cantilevered building that would house the immersive wildlife centre.
The company has worked with architect Stride Treglown on the project, and the professional team also includes economic consultancy Hatch Regeneris, JLL, landscape architect Randall Thorp and planner JWPC.
However, hundreds of Lancaster residents have expressed concern over the proposals, according to the local newspaper. Among the concerns are that M Capital would change its scheme into a solely residential-led development if it fails to win planning permission for the eco-resort. In 2018, the company put forward plans for a 950-home garden village at the site, which sits close to Junction 33 of the M6, but later switched to an alternative approach.
Other concerns are that the Ellel land on which the holiday village would be built is biodiverse as it is and does not require further meddling; that the development might significantly increase traffic and noise pollution in the area, and that several heritage buildings nearby would be impacted. The Environment Agency has also opposed the scheme on the grounds that the site falls within a flood risk vulnerability area.
Andrew Stanyon, project director at Ellel Holiday Village, said in a statement this week: “We have set about to fulfil a dream our team of experts have been working on for the last five years – to build an eco-friendly legacy of which we can be proud for generations to come.”
“Everyone is aware we are facing a climate emergency, and unless we take action now, we will ultimately destroy our wonderful planet. It’s no longer enough for new developments just to reduce carbon emissions, they also need to remove carbon from the atmosphere. ‘Rewilding’, planting woodlands, wetlands and encouraging wildlife can help nature recover on a massive scale. Done right, it can help significantly reduce our carbon footprint, and help shape a better future for people.”
“The vision for Ellel Holiday Village has nature conservation at its heart. This development not only has the ability to create jobs, and prosperity for the area, it also the opportunity to become a gamechanger in terms of biodiversification, and how we holiday.
“This is a chance for Lancaster to put itself on the global map and be lead in showing the world how working with nature can deliver economic growth, and job creation while enhancing the area and the lives of the people who work and play within it.”