Plans for Olympic standard climbing centre left hanging by coronavirus
Plans for a new Olympic standard climbing and high ropes centre between Gloucester and Cheltenham are in among those in a holding position due to the coronavirus pandemic.
How precarious the position of the proposed £6 million is as a result of the delay is unclear, but the latest paperwork to arrive with planners from Natural England calls for more time.
The site, at Bentham, at the foot of the Cotswold escarpment just off the A417, is in close proximity to the Cotswold Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Natural England said it was unable to visit due to the lock down.
“In the meantime, in order to allow progress to be made on other relevant themes arising from the proposal, Natural England notes that the scheme includes overnight accommodation pods for up to 35 people at a time,” said the letter to Tewkesbury Borough Council, under whose authority the planning matters fall.
“The council’s ecologist has recommended that the applicant submits further information to inform the Council’s Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).
“This is in recognition of the site’s proximity to the Cotswold Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the ongoing collaborative project by the Gloucestershire LPAs to address recreation pressure at this European site.”
A report by Sport England earlier this month pointed out the redevelopment of the site – known to many as Bentham domes – “will result in a loss of a facility for football, netball and indoor hockey along with the actual loss of two five-aside artificial grass pitches”.
However, it also tells the council “there is a national need for an Olympic standard speed climbing wall. There is currently only one internal wall in the whole country, which is located in Sheffield.
“Therefore, Sport England welcomes the proposal which will help the British climbing team train for the future Olympics as well as world and European Championships.”
It was February last year when news of the new climbing centre first came into view with the exact location not being revealed until June.
The company behind the venture, 270 Climbing Park, predicted the new venture would create an estimated 60 jobs and expect to open in 2020.
The vision was for a centre for elite climbers, but also for families, groups and clubs.
Former co-owner of Cheltenham-based Paragon Laundry, David Stevens, is the company director of the Maisemore-based business driving the scheme.
It is understood the new facility would replace the existing Warehouse Climbing Centre in Gloucester, also run by Mr Stevens. All staff would be offered the chance to apply for jobs at the new company.
Architect for the scheme is Cheltenham-based Corylus Planning & Environmental. It is understood the project will go out to tender once planning has been secured.
If all goes ahead the existing two domes at Bentham Country Club would be replaced with a single sports centre, plus outdoor high ropes course and accommodation.
The indoor climbing walls would reach more than 15 metres in places with a large dedicated bouldering area and dedicated Olympic standard speed-climbing wall.
It will also be able to cater for a range of abilities, from novice climbers to young children and include a 100-metre caving system, space for yoga and fitness classes and a licensed café.
Images courtesy of the Corylus Planning & Environmental design andaccess statement submitted as part of the planning application.