Ambitious plans to create a new country park tourist attraction at a West Norfolk beauty spot have been revealed.
Bawsey pits, a former sand quarry, is being taken over with proposals to transform the site which has had a chequered history.
Businessman Kevin Salter, of Gorefield, near Wisbech, is taking over the site from current owners Sibelco.
A museum, tree-top walkway, visitor centre, catering facilities and a children’s play park are all part of the plan for the new owners.
“This is no cut and dash investment for me. I have known the site all my life and want to provide it with a sustainable future. I am in this for the long-term,” said Mr Salter.
He stressed that he would be working closely with the Bawsey Futures group and wanted to re-brand the area to completely separate it from the past.
The site has been plagued by vandalism, anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.
In 2013 a man and a teenager drowned while swimming in the lake at the site.
The futures group was established by interested members of the public to consider how the site could move forward and Mr Salter has given £25,000 to the group to fund its work.
A survey conducted last year saw more than 600 people respond, with the majority asking for an improved area with better facilities.
But upgrading the park and ensuring it is a safe place to visit comes at a cost, said Mr Salter, who added that it had to be commercially viable in order to progress.
“I have known the site for many years and we used to go there for walks when my children were young. It has been tarnished,” said Mr Salter.
“It is a very beautiful site and we want to make it accessible to everyone to enjoy. I know people will be naturally cautious about my plans, but I am in it for the long-term.”
The first phase will see a planning application submitted in the near future to provide managed car and cycle parking, toilets and catering facilities. It is also hoped to create dog-friendly and dog-free zones and Mr Salter said he hoped work would be completed by spring next year.
Phase two will see wildlife viewing decks, observation pods linked to CCTV cameras watching wildlife sites. There are also plans for a children’s play park, tree-top walkways. a visitor centre and a touring park along with timber conservation lodges.
Sibelco director Gary Stringer, who will also be part of the management team, said: “This moment has been a long time coming but I’m thrilled that we have found a new partner whose vision chimes so closely with ours and that of the public.”
The survey results showed that 80 per cent of those who took part visited weekly or monthly.
Some 78 per cent of those who took part also said they would like a visitor centre and cafe.
Mr Salter said he also hoped there would be non-motorised water sports and swimming at the park.
The full financial details of the deal have not been revealed. The site remains open but the informal car park is closed
λ Mr Salter wants to re-name the site and would like members of the public to suggest alternatives that do not have the word ‘Bawsey’ in them.
Email email@example.com and we will pass them on.