Transformation of old quarry with hotel, holiday lodges and new nature reserve could create more than 100 new jobs

Multi-million-pound plans are being drawn up to transform an old North Devon quarry into a major eco-holiday village and nature reserve.

The masterplan for the proposed Birchwood Lakes development at Venn Quarry, between Bishops Tawton and Landkey, has been submitted to North Devon Council this week.

The Gazette has spoken exclusively to developer Habitat First Group, which has already delivered similar schemes in the Cotswolds and Dorset. It estimates that Birchwood Lakes could create more than 100 jobs and provide a huge boost to tourism in the area.

Plans for the 63-hectare site include a 40-bedroom family hotel, spa, restaurant and country club, as well as around 150 high-quality holiday cabins and lodges.

A multi-million-pound scheme is being drawn up to transform Venn Quarry into a major eco-holiday village and nature reserve. Picture: Habitat First GroupA multi-million-pound scheme is being drawn up to transform Venn Quarry into a major eco-holiday village and nature reserve. Picture: Habitat First Group

A new publicly accessible Venn Cross Nature Reserve would feature new footpaths, a heritage trail, café, shelters and wildlife watching areas – all accessible from the Tarka Trail.

‘World class’

The firm said that the development would offer world-class nature conservation alongside beautifully-designed, sustainable holiday accommodation.

People would be able to buy lodges and use them for holiday purposes or lease them back to the company to rent on their behalf.

The Birchwood Lakes masterplan for Venn Quarry, between Bishops Tawton and Landkey. Picture: Habitat First GroupThe Birchwood Lakes masterplan for Venn Quarry, between Bishops Tawton and Landkey. Picture: Habitat First Group

Developers say the scheme could be a key economic driver for the North Devon economy and an estimated £3.9million-a-year could be pumped into the local economy by visitors spending in the region.

Around 30 construction and 77 operational jobs are expected to be created.

‘Protect and enhance’

Habitat co-owner Red Paxton said: “It is vital that we protect and enhance the existing wildlife and environment as well as create new habitats incorporated into the holiday homes and hotel. In doing so, the proposal will reconnect the quarry area with the surrounding landscape.

An aerial cluster of holiday lodges. Picture: Habitat First GroupAn aerial cluster of holiday lodges. Picture: Habitat First Group

“Our aim is for visitors to the area to enjoy and appreciate a bio-diverse environment while benefiting from innovative leisure facilities which are designed for all ages.

“The local economy will also further flourish with the boost from local growth.”

From 1938 to 2006, gritstone was excavated at Venn Quarry, some of it used to build the North Devon Link Road and runways at RMB Chivenor.

Restoration

Developers are proposing a mix of lodge-type accommodation at Birchwood Lakes. Picture: Habitat First GroupDevelopers are proposing a mix of lodge-type accommodation at Birchwood Lakes. Picture: Habitat First Group

The quarry was sold by Aggregate Industries to Habitat in 2012 and is in the process of being restored by the quarry operator.

Managing director Will Vicary told the Gazette that a restoration plan approved with Devon County Council could ‘in theory’ be complete by the end of next year.

He said if planning permission was granted, development would begin by 2018 and Birchwood Lakes could be operational from 2020.

“We are looking at a three-to-four-year build at Birchwood Lakes,” said Mr Vicary.

Habitat First Group managing director Will Vicary surveys plans for the redevelopment of Venn Quarry, near Landkey. Picture: Andy KeebleHabitat First Group managing director Will Vicary surveys plans for the redevelopment of Venn Quarry, near Landkey. Picture: Andy Keeble

“The old mineral site is now exhausted but the location is beautiful and there are already great areas of habitat within it,” he added.

“Our ethos as a company is to get it back to a natural environment with our development within it so that everyone can go out and explore it.

“We pride ourselves on developing areas where families get to and the kids can go wild in a completely safe environment.”

What do you think about the plan? Email your thoughts to newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk