Council leaders gave the seal of approval to a job-spinning masterplan to expand a major tourist attraction – with the verdict they hoped it would be a ‘roaring success’.
The £18 million plans to create a 250-bed hotel, conference centre and water park at West Midland Safari and Leisure Park, in Bewdley, were endorsed by Wyre Forest Council’s cabinet in a meeting last night.
The planning brief and masterplan also includes potential to link up to the district’s other big tourist pull – the Severn Valley Railway – by creating a new stop for trains at the safari park.
Council leader Councillor John Campion said it was a ‘framework to deliver jobs and growth’ in the district.
“We want it to be a roaring success,” said Mr Campion.
He added – with a light-hearted reference to the fairground section of the safari park – that it had been a ‘rollercoaster’ ride to reach the stage of having a masterplan for the future of the attraction.
“It supports hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of investment,” he added.
Councillor Mike Price said: “Linking the two big attractions of the area together is a brilliant idea.”
And Councillor Helen Dyke spoke of how the idea of having a masterplan was hatched at the ReWyre Regeneration conference, held at the safari park in November 2011.
“A lot of us were under the impression that what was being discussed was rather ambitious,” she said.
“It’s amazing and fantastic that, two years later, these are not just things we were thinking about.
“It pays to be ambitious and not to listen to people when they say ‘you’ll never get there’.” The proposals centre on plans to develop a 250-bed hotel, a 1,000 delegate conference centre and a water park on land at Bunkers Hill.
An independent economic impact study identified that the overall scheme could generate nearly 300 extra jobs in the district and bring in extra spending worth £10 million.
Council officers and members have worked with the site owners to help shape the scheme – fired up by a plan that would drive investment and bring new jobs to the area.
The collaboration between the council and the attraction was aimed at making sure that any future development at the park was considered in a comprehensive way, addressing any concerns early in the planning process to give developers a clear steer on what would be acceptable in the green belt.
The ReWyre Regeneration event was known as the ‘four rooms conference’, with plans to improve the economic fortunes of the district through a quartet of projects.
Local traders have now welcomed the safari park masterplan and say they are looking forward to the extra customers it should bring to them.
Chris Lester, an assistant at Teddy Gray’s sweet shop in Load Street, Bewdley, said: “It will have a spin-off for us.”
And Richard Elzner, manager of Merchant’s Fish Bar in Load Street, added that it would be ‘good for business’.