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‘AMBITIOUS’ and ‘exciting’ plans to build a £50million leisure park in the Bowerhill Industrial Park, employing up to 1,000 people, have been revealed.
The proposed 50-acre leisure park – which would be delivered in phases – includes a water park, an indoor football arena, golf centre, dance and fitness club, nightclub, ten pin bowling centre, cinema, climbing centre and hotel, restaurants, and an outdoor adventure play area.
The plans are the brainchild of Gary Cooke, owner of Boomerang Family Play Centre and the Bounce House in Bowerhill Industrial Park, and have been revealed in response to Wiltshire Council’s invitation for interested parties to bid for the freehold of the former Christie Miller site, which closed in October 2018.
The first phase of the project – estimated to cost between £7-10 million and could take up to three years to build – is earmarked for the site of the former Christie Miller Sports Centre and would include an ‘extreme’ activity centre, a bowls club, an outdoor 4G football pitch, and a CrossFit and martial arts centre; employing an estimated 300 people.
“There is no leisure park like this, either in this area or in the region and with all the housing development everywhere, we need attractions and facilities for our new residents to use in our area, rather than to have to travel to,” said Gary explaining his long-term vision for the site to Melksham News. “Additionally, we need more jobs in the area, which this leisure park has in both phases – nearly 1,000 of them in total!
“These facilities will bring a massive benefit to the community and the surrounding area and they will bring lots of people to Melksham and the region who would otherwise go to Bristol and Swindon for these type of facilities.
“This then brings in additional revenue spend in the area, increasing more tourism and visits to the area and ultimately increasing employment even more – I can’t see any downsides!”
Gary’s plans resurfaced during lockdown last year when his businesses were closed for seven months due to Covid-19 restrictions – Gary actually began work on the plans years ago, but due to timings couldn’t move them forward.
“This came about during lockdown and from me talking to other business colleagues who are in leisure,” explained Gary. “We all want something to happen with the Christie Miller site, and we are all looking to expand our businesses in different ways.
“Christie Miller is the ideal location for reusing the old sports centre and golf course land, replacing those facilities with 21st century facilities”
Melksham’s two councils, whilst not directly pledging their support to Gary’s plans, have welcomed his ideas for the site.
At their full council meeting in December, Melksham Without Parish councillors described Gary’s plans as “ambitious”. The parish council resolved that they would welcome any economic redevelopment of the Christie Miller site, whether it be leisure or industrial. Councillors stated that the site should not be considered for residential development.
At their full council meeting last month, Melksham Town councillors echoed the thoughts of the parish council, describing the plans as an “exciting proposal”. The town council resolved that they welcome the development of the Christie Miller site for leisure or commercial use, and that it should not be used for housing.
It is expected that Wiltshire Council will announce the successful bid for the Christie Miller site in mid-February. Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for spatial planning, development management and investment, cllr Toby Sturgis, told Melksham News, “The site is being marketed at the moment and the marketing exercise safeguards the council’s ongoing interests in the site. The result of the marketing exercise will be reported to the council’s February cabinet meeting, so a decision can be taken on the way forward.”