Tuesday, July 5, 2016

News: Caravan plan for Rother Valley

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A business case is being put together for the development of a caravan site in Rother Valley Country Park.

In the south-west of Rotherham on the border with Sheffield, the 750-acre country park has four artificial lakes, recreational activities and nature reserves.

The park, created by the deliberate flooding of a former opencast coal extraction site, also hosts a range of events including park runs and triathlons. Next month it will host national events including the ASA National Open Water Festival and the UK Cable Nationals.

Camping is only currently available on site for events customers and for camping rallies that are pre-booked through an official organisation but that is set to change.

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A land deal is close to being agreed that will enable the creation of a £37m Gulliver's Family Theme Park resort on the Pithouse West site, adjacent to the country park.

Gulliver's, the operators of theme parks in Warrington, Matlock Bath and Milton Keynes developed an initial masterplan for the first of their sites in the UK to encompass all their major family entertainment elements in one location with new attractions exclusive to Rotherham.

Built over phases, the theme park is set to include a camping and caravan site, a 100-room Gulliver's hotel and 300 woodland lodges.

As the theme park plans come to fruition, Rotherham Council, which operates Rother Valley Country Park has been developing a business case to look at the potential provision of caravanning and camping facilities of their own.

The agreed Heads of Terms for the land sale includes a clause enabling the Council to elect to provide camping and caravanning on the adjacent country park. Should the Council make this provision, Gulliver's has agreed that they will instead focus more on "glamping" on their site.


The authority has severe budget pressures and forecasts a total funding gap of £48m over the next three years. The park is described as a "substantial business", with an annual turnover of around £880,000. The park operates very efficiently and net running costs have decreased significantly over recent years, largely through income growth from a series of small scale capital investments and an increase in parking charges, and also through staff reductions.

Operators put forward budget-saving proposals based on increased income at the park, namely from the development of a caravan site. Following the development of designs and financial projections for a touring caravan site, a strategic outline case was submitted in 2015 for consideration within the Council's new capital projects process. However, this was rejected during the 2016-17 budget setting process, even though the associated savings remain in place.

The Council is pushing ahead with the plan and has gone out to tender in order to get an independent assessment of its financial projections to establish whether they are sound and can then be used to support a decision by the Council to undertake the project.

The aim was to make savings of £289,000 for 2016-17 which would remove the Council's subsidy and replace it with a profit target of around £50,000.

Rother Valley Country Park website

Images: RMBC

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