UK: Holiday village company Center Parcs has scrapped plans to build a new holiday park in the UK.
In July 2021, it was announced that the company had secured an option agreement to acquire privately owned woodland in West Sussex near Crawley and build a holiday park worth up to £400 million. The site had been projected to create up to 1500 permanent jobs and an additional 1000 during the construction phase.
In line with Center Parcs’ traditional offerings at other parks, the 553-acre site, located at Oldhouse Warren off Balcombe Road, Worth, would have included self-catered lodges, a range of indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, a subtropical Swimming Paradise, a variety of restaurants and shops, and an Aqua Sana Spa.
However, Center Parcs has now confirmed that it has pulled out of the project as the location was deemed to not be “suitable” for the development, due to not being able to meet biodiversity targets at the site.
Center Parcs chief executive Colin McKinlay said: “We have always been committed to only building our villages in areas where we can improve the biodiversity of the site. Whilst it is obviously disappointing that we will not be able to bring Center Parcs to this part of West Sussex, this decision demonstrates how seriously we take our responsibility to the environment, as well as our ongoing commitment to enhancing the natural habitats in which our villages are located.
“Through our customer insights we are confident that there is strong demand in the UK market for a sixth Center Parcs village and, with this in mind, we will continue our search for a suitable site,” he added.
Wildlife campaigners and nature experts had called for the development plans to be shelved as it would have been “disastrous” for wildlife and disturbed a “rare gem” of ancient woodland. Last year, hundreds of protesters participated in a major trespass on the site to voice their anger at the plans.
Jack Taylor, lead campaigner for the Woodland Trust, praised Center Parcs’ decision when speaking to The Guardian: “All credit to Center Parcs for pulling out of plans to develop a new park in ancient woodland. It is why proper site assessments are needed in planning and no shortcuts.
“The proposals would have been disastrous for wildlife and see us lose irreplaceable habitat. Oldhouse Warren is an exceptional 550-acre ancient woodland and a rare gem, given that ancient woods now cover less than three per cent of the UK,” he added.
The last Center Parcs to open in the UK was at Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire in 2014, and in 2020, Center Parcs’ Whinfell Forest resort opened a set of new luxury treehouses.