Mansfield couple behind jobs-boosting plans to build huge 'world class' water sports park

An aerial shot of the planned water park site Long Eaton.
An aerial shot of the planned water park site Long Eaton.

Two wakeboard enthusiasts from Mansfield are riding the crest of a wave after winning permission to transform flooded gravel pits into a top UK watersports centre.

Katie and Richard Hill bought the 133-acre former Trent Meadow gravel pit site at Long Eaton three years ago.

They dreamed of transforming it from a declining green space now attracting fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour into the Spring Lakes Watersports Club - a centre of excellence where they could teach their sport to future generations of enthusiasts and create a family-friendly destination with a variety of activities on the water.

And on Wednesday (January 23), a unanimous vote from Erewash Borough Council’s Planning Committee gave them the green light.

Work on the multi-million pound project - which will create at least 12 jobs and boost the local economy - can now begin, in line with a number of conditions set by planners.

The site was used for sand and gravel extraction from the 1960s and was left an eyesore when operations ceased.

In the 1990s an upgrading scheme saw the gravel pits flooded to create three lakes and the area became popular with dog-walkers. Lack of maintenance has since seen the area decline.

“We are delighted to have gained approval and very positive comments from the committee about what an exciting and welcome project it is. Our plans will make the area even more attractive and accessible for local people,” said Richard Hill, 39, an avid wakeboarder and the chairman of Church Wilne Water Sports Club in Derbyshire.

“In a peaceful setting, visitors will be able to enjoy canoeing, paddle-boarding, open-water swimming and fishing. We hope to eventually provide rowing boats, pedalos, scuba-diving equipment, raft-building classes and inflatables.”

Richard and his wife Katie work with the British Disabled Waterski and Wakeboard Association and also want to develop water sports for people with disabilities and special needs at Spring Lakes.

Alistair Haxton, MD of Chesterfield-based HK Architecture, designers for the scheme, said: “This development will be a place for locals to feel proud of. It will turn a green space falling into decline into an outdoor destination which brings nature and carefully-planned family facilities and activities together in a harmonious way.

“Planners applauded our designs for features including a timber eco-clubhouse, classrooms and cafe, and a stunning viewing platform overlooking the lake.”

Charlotte Stainton, chartered planning consultant at Stainton Planning, the agent working on behalf of the developer, said: "Stainton Planning is very proud to be involved in this exciting and truly unique project. It will be an asset to Long Eaton and draw visitors from across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

“The development drew around a dozen objections raising concerns of traffic congestion, noise, air quality, anti-social behaviour and the impact on wildlife. But we were able to detail how each of these issues have been carefully and considerately dealt with, and reassure councillors’ concerns at the meeting that all safety precautions will be taken and bird hides or screens will be installed.

“We will be complying with all conditions imposed by council planners, including sympathetic landscaping, enhancing the local ecology and public footpaths and cycleways to make them attractive and safer to use, and ensuring flood risk and ground conditions are dealt with appropriately.”

The British Water Ski and Wakeboard club said the 'proposed facility will be world class standard, a great asset to grass roots and elite channels of this sport as well as the surrounding community'.

Head of planning and regeneration at the council, Steve Birkinshaw, said: “There is already a sail boat club which operates from this site, and I hear, a large number of open water swimmers use it too.

“This would be a manned facility, operated by a professional water sports company which will have licenses for water safety.

“Having the site occupied will give us the opportunity to address water safety and all the other issues we are already aware of.”