Mansfield couple make a splash with new watersports park for families

Watersports enthusiasts Richard and Katie Hill, with their two-year-old daughter, Jessica.
Watersports enthusiasts Richard and Katie Hill, with their two-year-old daughter, Jessica.

Two wakeboarding enthusiasts from Mansfield are riding the crest of a wave after winning permission to turn a rundown site into a centre of excellence for watersports.

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

Although a green space, it was attracting fly-tippers and all kinds of anti-social behaviour, so they hatched a dream plan to transform it into a watersports club for families.

Now, Erewash Borough Council’s planning committee has given them the green light, and work on the multi-million pound project is ready to begin.

To be known as the Spring Lakes Watersports Club, it will create at least 12 jobs, boost the local economy and teach future generations a range of water-based activities.

For 25 years, Richard has been an avid fan of wakeboarding, whereby participants are towed on a small board behind a motorboat and ride wakes, or trails of disturbed water, produced by the boat, and also try tricks.

He said: “We are delighted to have gained approval for this exciting and welcome project.

“Our plans will make the area more attractive and accessible for local people.

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

Richard and Katie, who are both 39, live in Pleasley, and have a two-year-old daughter, Jessica.

Richard is a director of the Kirkby-based firm, Maurice Hill Transport, which was set up by his father 60 years ago and has more than 150 employees. Katie works as a project manager in the construction industry.

As a child on family holidays, Richard discovered wakeboarding and, at the age of 12, he took up the sport at a club at Gunthorpe Bridge.

He is chairman of Church Wilne Water Sports Club in Derbyshire and introduced Katie to wakeboarding five years ago. She is now a fully-qualified water sports coach and is the club’s child safety oficer.

The couple also work for the British Disabled Waterski and Wakeboard Assocoiation, and would like to develop watersports at Spring Lakes for people with disabilities and special needs

The Trent Meadow site was used for sand and gravel extraction from the 1960s, but deteriorated into 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. But lack of maintenance resulted in its decline.

The designers of the new centre are the Chesterfield-based company, HK Architecture. Its managing director, Alistair Haxton, 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 that brings nature and carefully-planned family facilities and activities together in a harmonious way.

“The planners applauded our designs for features such as a timber eco-clubhouse, classrooms, cafe, and a stunning viewing platform overloooking a lake.”

The plan did draw about a dozen objections from nearby residents, who were concerned about traffic congestion, noise and the impact on wildlife.

However, Charlotte Stainton, of Stainton Planning, the agent working on behalf of the developer, said: “We told the planning committee how each of these issues has been carefully and considerately dealt with.

“We also reassured councillors that all safety precautions will be taken, and bird hides or screens will be installed to protect wildlife.

“We will comply with all conditions imposed by council planners, including sympathetic landscaping, enhancing the local ecology and installing attractive and safe public footpaths and cycleways.”