A £7 million pound investment in a new family leisure park will create 60 new jobs – and a training ground for the next generation of Olympians right here in Gloucestershire.
It is a long way from David Stevens first business success, running the former Cheltenham family laundry business Paragon, a firm he and brother Robert helped grow to £30 million turnover before selling in 2015.
More than two years ago Mr Steven’s, who also runs the Warehouse Climbing Centre in Gloucester, revealed plans to transform Bentham Country Club close to Crickley Hill, and that vision now has planning approval.
Once complete 270 Climbing Park will boast sports facilities, a glamping area, high-ropes course and zip wires – and create scores of full and part time jobs.
The new sports dome will house multi-activity courts and a bouldering competition wall. There are also plans for an artificial caving system, soft play area, fitness studio and therapy rooms, as well as two cafés.
There will also be new glamping facilities and pods available for short term stays.
‘It has been a long time coming, but Tewkesbury Borough Council wanted to get it right – and so did we. It is a sensitive site – not just environmentally,’ said Mr Stevens, referring to the six-acres of land which are within an AONB and the Green Belt.
‘We hope to be on the ground in spring perhaps summer time, and opening – perhaps with a phased development – in September 2022.’
He added: ‘It was held up by the pandemic, but we can honestly say we are glad we did not open a year ago. If we had we would have had the burden of Covid on our balance sheet like many others now have.’
Changes have also been made to the plans for the facilities as a result of the pandemic – including better ventilation.
‘We hope we have seen the last of Covid-19, but we do not know whether it will come back either,’ said Mr Stevens, who now heads up Maisemore-headquartered Adventure Activity Company.
The firm’s business model allows it to open 52 weeks of the year, with indoor and outdoor facilities catering for all levels, from those just starting out and there for fun to those aiming for the very summit of climbing – an Olympic gold.
Cheltenham-based architects Corylus Planning & Environmental has helped design the scheme.
‘We have not named a contractor yet, but plan to work with Gloucestershire businesses as much as we can going forward,’ said the Gloucestershire entrepreneur.
By Andrew Merrell