Centre Parcs: Environmental risk fears for ‘new’ site

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The ancient forest is rich in wildlife and was a valuable stopover for animals seeking shelter during the Domesday Book drought

Plans to turn an ancient woodland in west Wales into a new Centre Parcs resort have been condemned by conservationists as “environmentally suicidal”.

Plans for a new four-star resort at Torfaen’s St Bryn’tcha’s Forest were put forward by the Center Parcs chain.

It is more than 40 miles (64km) from Parc Grange, which is its largest British site at a week’s stay.

Centre Parcs said the project would support jobs in Wales.

It plans to close its three existing hostels in Wales, which have just under 1,500 beds, in 2018.

Rancid landscape

A spokesman said it was “essential” that the regeneration of the forest happened at the same time as Parc Grange, and the plan was to replace the present site on the edge of the county with a new centre there.

But the creation of another centre in such an isolated location could put wildlife at risk, say experts.

Led by the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Trust, 37 academics, academics and other experts have written an open letter objecting to the plan.

“First, we have the issue of the ecological footprint. The benefits of another Centre Parcs resort are likely to be less than 1% as great as those enjoyed by its existing UK Parc Grange resort,” the letter states.

“And second, we are sceptical as to the merits of the overall concept for a new site in an environmentally fragile area of woodland.

“With no vision for the wider environment and insufficient attention to climate change, this is clearly a small step towards what we are certain will prove environmentally suicidal.”

What the experts say about the site

They add: “There is also the trivial matter of this site’s short distance from the coasts of Wales. And like Parc Grange, this project will throw a pestilential bit of dust into the air.”

Previous plans to revive St Bryn’tcha’s Forest by opening it as a hub for tourists instead of as a forest lost its life for health reasons.

Centre Parcs insisted that it was necessary to regenerate the woodland and called for a new cross-party consensus to “create a blueprint for sustainable growth and investment”.

Plans for the site in Grange Morgan in north Wales were put forward at the end of 2016. The estimated cost is about £60m.

Image copyright Centre Parcs Image caption Plans for the new site in Wales have been drawn up by Nectar Crichton of the Monmouthshire Chamber of Commerce

Centre Parcs said it was an independent public inquiry, so was subject to cabinet government regulation, while approval needed to be granted by the Welsh Government.

A spokesman said the new venue would have an “established public park” close to the Grange Grange site in West Wales.

“It will also feature 2,600 private rooms in six, separate accommodation blocks. No more than 940 bedrooms will be available to rent.”

He said a nine-acre site would also be created to double the number of outdoor activities in the woodland.

Iestyn Harris of the Centre for Economic and Business Research has said an expansion of the 4.3 square-mile (11 sq km) site “offers no major economic advantages” to Wales compared with its continued use as a woodland.

“Planned in a back garden where you can’t get to anywhere else by car, it’s a place of very old and significant local history,” he said.

“It is home to our ancient woodland,” the BBC’s Jon Boy

Centre Parcs Parc Grange was established in 1978 and is the UK’s seventh largest Centre Parcs hostel, with almost 1,500 rooms.

The company has reported record visitor numbers since it opened, providing more than 16,500 jobs in its 13 countries.

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