Environmentalists have criticised plans for a new £350 million holiday camp, saying it would make a mockery of the UK’s net zero carbon obligations and damage the countryside.
Center Parcs wants to build its sixth English holiday village on a 550-acre site south of Gatwick Airport, near Crawley, in Sussex.
The Notts-based business hopes to create 1,500 new jobs at the site, which it says fits its requirements due to its location to the south of London and good transport links.
But opponents say it would “tear the heart out” of irreplaceable ancient woodland and make a mockery of the Government’s climate change commitments.
They said putting up hundreds of lodges along with restaurants, sports facilities and a swimming complex would destroy habitat and “open the floodgates for damage to ancient woodlands elsewhere”.
Center Parcs said it is surveying the site and takes its responsibility to the environment “extremely seriously”.
The leisure company, which runs five holiday villages from its Newark base, has secured an option agreement to acquire privately owned woodland at Oldhouse Warren.
Nature conservation and countryside charities the Woodland Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust, CPRE Sussex, Sussex Ornithological Society and the RSPB have criticised the plans.
In a joint statement, the organisations said the development would “would tear the heart out of Oldhouse Warren’s irreplaceable ancient woodland” resulting in “irreversible loss of habitat for wildlife”.
Dan Osborn, chairman of CPRE Sussex, said: “Felling ancient woodland and displacing some of our rarest birds would be bad enough anywhere, it is even worse done in the heart of the High Weald national landscape.
“The proposals fly in the face of everything we are told about the need to reduce our carbon emissions, and run counter to Government objectives for the restoration and expansion of our natural habitats and biodiversity for our, and their, long-term health and wellbeing.”
Jenny Scholfield, South East regional director for the Woodland Trust, warned that the development could “open the floodgates for damage to ancient woodlands elsewhere”.
The groups say the area is a breeding and foraging site for bird species including goshawk, marsh tit and firecrest.
Alan Perry, president of the Sussex Ornithological Society, said: “It holds scarce and threatened birds and survey work in this private site would doubtless reveal other such species.
“But the site also needs to be looked at in a wider context. It is part of a wider, largely undisturbed, area of woodland and open fields that is home to scarce breeding birds that roam over large distances.”
Center Parcs said the development is expected to cost between £350 million and £400 million and create about 1,500 permanent local jobs, and a further 1,000 roles during construction.
A spokesperson for the company said “detailed ecological surveys” are under way and it takes its responsibility to the environment and forests “extremely seriously”.
They added: “We have more than 30 years’ experience of sensitively managing the woodlands in which our villages are located, carefully nurturing and maintaining the forests to protect and enhance biodiversity.
“Our approach to this development will be a collaborative one, working with the local authority, local community and with all groups that have a specific interest in the site.”
Center Parcs chief executive Martin Dalby previously said: “It is really exciting to have identified a potential site for another Center Parcs village in the UK.
“As a business, we take our responsibility to the local community extremely seriously and look forward to sharing our plans as they progress.”
Center Parcs UK – which is a separate business to Center Parcs Europe – employs around 9,000 people and has around 2.2 guests each year.
It has sites in Cumbria, in Notts, Wiltshire, Suffolk and Bedfordshire, with another in Ireland, around 70 miles west of Dublin.
Business News Governmental News Finance News
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.