Center Parcs to build new resort


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The Independent Online

Holiday firm Center Parcs confirmed today it will press ahead with plans to build its fifth UK resort in a move set to create 2,700 jobs.

It has secured £250 million of funding for the development, which will see 625 forest lodges, a 75-bed hotel, a swimming pool, a lake and other leisure facilities built in Woburn, Bedfordshire.

The centre, which will be open in the spring of 2014, will create 1,500 jobs, mainly for local people, while a further 1,200 people will be employed in the construction of the site.

It comes after the UK's four biggest banks - HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds - agreed to a £150 million construction loan, with the rest of the money being stumped up by the group's private equity owner Blackstone following a £1 billion refinancing.

The expansion was welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron today.

The group, which has existing sites at Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, and Longleat Forest in Wiltshire, said the construction project would be "the largest of its type in Britain for many years".

The group originally identified the site in Warren Wood near Flitwick in 2004 but the development sparked protests about its impact on the green belt.

The company did not get planning permission until 2007 following a public inquiry and it was then further delayed by the economic downturn.

About 10% of the trees in the forest will be cut down to make way for the project but it will plant 40 acres of trees elsewhere to offset the impact.

Center Parcs chief executive Martin Dalby said the site is in "a fantastic location" because it is an hour's drive away from the north of London near the M1 motorway.

He said: "We think this will be extremely successful. It's fantastic news for the local economy."

Center Parcs, which has been operating in the UK for 25 years, is trading strongly, with occupancy rates of around 97% throughout 2011 and positive booking trends for 2012.

He added that Center Parcs has had a "fantastic track record for many years and was doing well before the word staycation was even invented".

In recent years, Center Parcs has invested in building new luxury tree houses as well as improving restaurants and shops.