PLANS for the UK’s first in-land surfing lake have been given the go ahead, despite Easter Compton residents' claims that traffic will blight their lives.
The £6.2million project, called The Wave: Bristol, will see the creation of a 300x100metre freshwater lake, camping area with 100 pitches, amphitheatre and education centre. At the request of locals, the entrepreneurs behind the facility will also create a swimming pool for residents to use.
At a meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s development control (west) committee on Thursday (June 19), councillors voted nine in favour and one against with one abstention.
Afterwards, applicant and Bristol-based businessman Nick Hounsfield told the Gazette: “I am totally overwhelmed.
“I can’t quite believe that we have come from what was a complete pipe dream and made a really aspirational plan for a project with huge benefits.”
He had told the meeting he had heard of new surfing technology available at the time of the Tottenham riots in 2011.
“We were under the impression children are disconnected with nature, watching too much TV and as a team we decided we wanted to make a difference.
“We have a vision of a multi-faceted space where people of all ages and abilities could get together and have fun.”
The lake will use Wave Garden technology to create artificial waves appropriate for all levels of surfing.
Mr Hounsfield said the project would bring educational benefits, job and apprenticeship opportunities and sports facilities for surfers. He said he was fully aware the site, on land near Over Lane in Almondsbury and Washingpool Lane, was in the Green Belt.
“We are trying to minimise the impact the development will have,” he said. “Obviously we have to build something but it will be a short-term hit for a massive long-term gain.
“We are not arrogant enough to think we are going to change the world but we do think we can make a difference.”
Bronze medal-winning Olympic snowboarder and keen surfer Jenny Jones, from Downend, told councillors: “I didn’t have any mountains near me when I was growing up but I did have a dry ski slope. I was offered a free half-hour lesson and thought it was amazing.
“Something like The Wave project could be very much the same thing. It will provide great facilities for youngsters and adults to be exposed to a sport they might not be otherwise.”
James Durie, executive director of Bristol and South Gloucestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: “There are a considerable number of economic and social benefits.
“It will bring £6million of private sector investment into South Gloucestershire and will use exciting, groundbreaking technology and this area is proud of its technology.”
Winterbourne resident Peter Taylor, chairman and director of national charity The Wave which offers troubled youngsters free surfing courses and is not connected with The Wave: Bristol, said: “We have lots of evidence our courses offer a supportive environment which will improve motivation and confidence and make young people feel there is something really worthwhile in the world.
“We have people who make the four-hour round trip from South Gloucestershire to north Devon once a week in order to participate in our courses.
“We know young people suffer mental health issues at the rate of 10 per cent a year.
“By making this facility available you are opening up to our residents these opportunities to young people who are suffering these mental health difficulties.”
Richard Jones, from Almondsbury Parish Council, said he felt like a pantomime villain objecting to the scheme after hearing such worthy benefits to it.
“Our main concerns are over access to this site,” he said. “The only access is the B4055 and it is not called a B road for any other reason than it is not an A road.
“Our local Speedwatch group has monitored up to 1,500 vehicles there at various times on various days. That is a lot for a B road to take and in addition you already have Bristol Zoo’s The Wild Place Project on that road and various housing plans coming on stream.
“We are genuinely concerned with the ability of the road to cope with the traffic.”
Resident and PE teacher Martyn Dash said although he supported the scheme’s objectives, the Green Belt was there to ‘stop the creep’ of development.
“Anything that changes that, which this definitely will, needs to be of exceptional benefit.”
In a letter read out at the meeting, Cllr Sheila Cook (Con, Almondsbury) said: “We are a proud community under siege at every angle. Put simply, too much is happening in too small an area.”
But councillors agreed with planning officers that the benefits of the scheme outweighed the impact of building on the Green Belt and a booking system for the lake would help prevent an influx of traffic at peak times.
Recommending a residents’ liaison group be set up with the project developers, Cllr Dave Hockey (Lib Dem, Frampton Cotterell) said: “I want this to work effectively. It is a major scheme with potentially major impacts.
“I am very aware that this is the first application of this type that we have had in our area and I really feel a residents’ liaison group should be set up.”
The application must now be ratified by the Secretary of State because it concerns development in the Green Belt.
Subject to approval, Mr Hounsfield said he hoped work would start on site next year.