Center Parcs revamp is complete

Just 15 months ago it was a charred shell of rubble and ashes, torn apart by a fierce fire.But today, after an intensive £45 million reconstruction programme, the Center Parcs holiday village at Elveden is revamped, redesigned and rising like a phoenix from the ashes, ready to welcome guests back.

Just 15 months ago it was a charred shell of rubble and ashes, torn apart by a fierce fire.

But today, after an intensive £45 million reconstruction programme, the Center Parcs holiday village at Elveden is revamped, redesigned and rising like a phoenix from the ashes, ready to welcome guests back.

The blaze, which broke out on April 4 last year, tore through restaurants, shops and other facilities at the bustling heart of the village.

Although nobody was injured, 3,500 holidaymakers were evacuated from the park and Center Parcs had to pay out thousands of pounds in compensation for cancelled bookings.

Some 270 staff were made redundant in the wake of the blaze and the knock-on effects were felt by local businesses.

The relaunch, which will see trial groups of non-paying guests staying in the village's many villas over the next two weeks, was marked yesterday by the unveiling of an 11-foot carved phoenix statue.

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Managing director of Center Parcs UK Martin Dalby said: "It has been a difficult 15 months and it has been a challenge to achieve what we have.

"We're thrilled to be at this point. We have finished on time after the first stone was laid in August, 44 weeks ago.

"In that time we have been spending more than £1 million per week and at busy times we've had more than 500 contractors working on the site."

But as builders worked on the finishing touches yesterday, it was clear the works aimed to do far more than simply rebuild the areas destroyed by the intense fire.

The new plaza area with its open terraces, waterfalls and giant Balinese statues, has a completely different feel to the enclosed arcade that used to sit at the heart of the village.

Director of development and engineering Don Camilleri said he took the opportunity to design larger, two-storey buildings where the single-storey complex once stood.

The village has new facilities, including a chic modern-styled Indian restaurant, a spa with a vast range of beauty treatments and a 12-lane bowling centre.

"There is a wealth of imported Mediterranean plants, street café areas, outdoor areas and imported statues," he said.

"I'm over the moon to see it all come together like this. It could have been a total nightmare but it hasn't."

Mr Camilleri said he was glad that the redesign created facilities for an extra 200 guests and revealed the village is already almost fully booked for this summer.

The phoenix statue, which symbolises Center Parcs' rebirth in Elveden, was carved from a 170-year-old Lebanon Cedar tree by artist Ben Platts-Mills, of Coney Weston, near Diss.

"Tomorrow is a new beginning for Elveden," added Mr Dalby. "In two weeks we will have paying guests back in the village.

"We have recruited 700 new faces since January and now have a full compliment of staff trained and ready to go into action when guests arrive tomorrow."

In December it emerged that Center Parcs was forced to launch multi-million pound High Court proceedings against its insurers after they refused to cover the company's losses.

Although Mr Dalby would not reveal if there would be a court hearing, he did say: "We are now in the process of finalising our claim with the insurers and we are all hoping for a satisfactory conclusion."

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