Plan for £1billion new town unveiled

ExclusiveBy Benedict O'ConnorDEVELOPERS have unveiled ambitious plans to plough £1billion into a new town that will be home to 15,000 people.Few details have emerged so far about the Watermark development, planned for on a 215-hectare site between Red Lodge and Kentford.

Exclusive

By Benedict O'Connor

DEVELOPERS have unveiled ambitious plans to plough £1billion into a new town that will be home to 15,000 people.

Few details have emerged so far about the Watermark development, planned for on a 215-hectare site between Red Lodge and Kentford.

Watermark, backed by five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave, will be made up of between 4,000 and 5,000 new houses, a rowing lake, office developments, tennis facilities, a golf course, shops and a multi-purpose 5,000-seat sports arena.

Documents obtained from the developer, Orion Land and Leisure, showed the new town could be home to about 15,000 people and would also incorporate pubs, churches, doctor's surgeries and schools, an eco-centre and facilities for extreme sports.

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It will be served by a new junction on the A14 and will form a futuristic, environmentally friendly “sustainable” community served by a series of artificial lakes and waterways, with a new network of cyclepaths, walkways, nature trails and village greens.

In his first public endorsement of the scheme, Sir Steve Redgrave, who is part of the scheme's development team, said: “The aim is to improve and enhance the quality of young people's lives and help them to find their true potential in life through their participation in sport.”

The developer has already been in discussion with Norwegian architects Biong, who were behind the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, to produce a “landmark” building for the sports arena in conjunction with SMG Group, the world's largest sports arena operators.

It is also consulting with extreme sports experts about providing rock-climbing walls, mountain bike trails, BMX, skate and rafting facilities.

The developer has confirmed that it estimated the investment in the new town would be £1bn, which would include an arts centre, a working farm, sculpture trails, a winter ice rink, herb gardens and allotments.

But a pressure group, the Five Villages Preservation Trust, has already been set up by residents to oppose the development and intends to stage a protest when the matter is raised at a Forest Heath District Council planning meeting on Thursday.

Andrew Holman, the group's chairman, said: “We have always asked that the council listen to the views of people in the area, something they are meant to do in the development of the local development framework.

“So far the views of the public and the Five Villages Preservation Trust, backed by overwhelming opposition in local referendums and polls, have been ignored.”

Robin Millar, chairman of the council's local development framework working group, said it had not yet formed a view on the development and the purpose of Thursday's meeting was to agree the form of public consultation about all future development in the district.

He added: “We are bound to consult on Watermark by the Government Office for the East of England as we form our local development strategy.

“It is vital that the process will not be unduly influenced by either commercial interests or pressure groups, other than through the legitimate democratic means - this is about the opinions and aspirations of all local residents, not specific groups.”

A spokesman for Orion Land and Leisure said the project would be the “model” of how such a development should progress through the planning system and would be conducted by the book.

He added the development was designed, with great care and considerable expense, to provide huge benefits for the region as a whole.

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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