Work on a £110m green holiday village in Pembrokeshire, which will create 900 jobs, starts today. After a protracted delay following a tenacious legal challenge lodged by the Council for National Parks – which went all the way to the House of Lords – backers of the Bluestone project said its scheme would will inject £32m a year into the local economy.
At the press conference today Minister for Enterprise Andrew Davies, will formally sign off the Assembly's financial backing for the innovative project (£18.5m in grant aid) to chief executive of Bluestone, William McNamara.
The project is also receiving an initial £41m cash funding package from Mansford Holdings and Bank of Scotland Corporate.
Further funding is provided by equity investors Mr McNamara and Sir Edward Dashwood, while Pembrokeshire County Council is providing a loan.
The first phase of the project (£85m) will feature a stone-built village; 335 high quality log cabins; 30 cottages; 30 studio apartments and a water park.
This element of the project is scheduled for completion by June 2008, two years later than originally planned before the legal challenge.
The Council for National Parks said the project – which will be partly located in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – would have set a dangerous precedent for development in national parks.
After being granted a judicial review, the council took its case -unsuccessfully – to the House of Lords, after losing its appeal in the High Court.
As part of a rolling programme of investment, Bluestone will also open a £25m snowdome – with a 250-metre slope and ice rink – in 2009.
Bluestone will create 300 jobs during construction and a further 600 jobs when it is completed .
A recruitment drive will be launched in the New Year.
Mr Davies 'It is a major undertaking that will not only create hundreds of full-time jobs, boost skills levels and open up new opportunities for local businesses, but will also raise the profile of Wales internationally.
'This is a flagship project, which will set new standards of quality and become a beacon for eco-tourism and sustainable development within the UK. Bluestone will play a pivotal role in developing the short breaks market, expanding the tourism season and bring added value to the market.'
Mr McNamara, 'The launch of Bluestone is the culmination of 10 years of work. We set out to create a new direction for tourism in Wales within Pembrokeshire, the most beautiful county in the UK.
'Bluestone will be built primarily within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, a responsibility that we do not take lightly, and we aim to deliver a new generation of eco-tourism with sustainable development principles at its core.
'Bluestone will utilise renewable energy on a commercial scale and will build an energy visitor centre, placing Wales at the forefront of sustainable technology in the UK. The centre will be an important educational resource for schools and industry, while other eco-tourism initiatives include conserving and enhancing habitats, landscape, geological and archaeological resources on site; as well as promoting responsible eco-adventure through partnering off site.
Bluestone expect that the high quality holiday village will bring in up to 100,000 new high-value staying visitors annually, while the two new all-weather facilities – water world and snow centre – are each expected to attract 250,000 day visitors a year, with the capacity to accommodate a million visitors.
Bluestone is the first of a new generation of holiday village, catering for the more discerning visitor and targeting the higher end of the market. Extensive research (Holiday Villages, Mintel, February 2006) has identified there is market demand for luxury holiday villages and it is this niche market that Bluestone will be aiming at.
Mr McNamara said visitors will have a myriad of choices at Bluestone.
'Everything is on the doorstep and Pembrokeshire will be their playground to enjoy a superb natural unspoilt environment which is already accepted as being one of the finest locations for outdoor and adventure activities in the UK.'
Charles Knight, director of equity funders and property company Mansford Hol dings, said,'This exciting venture is a true partnership between Mansford and William McNamara as majority equity partners, William providing the entrepreneurial spirit, drive and land with Mansford providing £10m equity venture capital, international property development expertise and an innovative corporate structure. 'We are delighted to be involved in enabling the project to proceed with a blue-chip line-up of Welsh private sector investors and entrepreneurs, working with the public sector to create a landmark project in the Principality.' Djhoanna Medway, associate director at Bank of Scotland Corporate, said, 'Bank of Scotland Corporate is excited to be playing such a major role in this ambitious project and our funding is central to the development.
'Our speed of response was key as this deal needed to be turned around quickly to ensure the project could be completed within strict time deadlines.' Cardiff-based Gambit Corporate Finance acted as lead adviser to Bluestone.