PLANS to turn the site of Denaby’s ill-fated Earth Centre into a residential adventure centre for young people have been broadly welcomed at a public consultation.
The new owners of the site, Kingswood Education + Adventure explained their ambitious plans to turn the 50-acre site into a wonderland of kayaking, abseiling and caving – bringing to an end years of dereliction and uncertainty.
At a presentation at Con-isbrough’s Ivanhoe Centre, Kingswood boss Paul Gilbert and activity co-ordinators presented a colourful vision of the planned activity centre.
They also fielded questions about access for local children to the site, employment opportunities, the involvement of community groups and the preservation of existing public rights of way.
Mr Gilbert explained: “We want to make sure we get to know local people from the start and hear their views and ideas before we submit our planning application.
“We are looking to be part of, and work with, the community from day one. We understand there is a rich history and culture associated with the site and we want people to tell us how best we can do that.
“We have a number of schools which are already Kingswood visitors. We are providing a subsidy to Doncaster Council to ensure that those children who may not otherwise be able to attend due to financial pressures do not miss out.”
“We have a 30–year track record of bringing science to life in the UK, understanding local issues and making sure our programmes are embedded in that community and culture.
“When the centre is operating we would require about 200 staff and we would hope that staffing would be from local villages – that is activity staff, catering and maintenance teams all separate to the construction phase which would also employ local firms”.
Conisbrough mum Robyn Johnson said she thought the project was “absolutely brilliant”.
She said: “I like the whole idea of giving kids something to do and bringing much needed jobs to the local community.”
Doncaster Council sold the site to Kingswood in a bidding process which rejected a bid by the Life Park Consortium, which included Conisbrough and Denaby community group The Fourth Pillar.
Mr Gilbert said he would welcome the group’s involvement: “They know far more about the history of the site than we do - what better group of people would there be to work with?”
But Denaby resident Jim Tierney, of The Fourth Pillar group, asked how the plans would really benefit an adjacent community which felt it was left high and dry when the Earth Centre was mothballed.
He said: “Doncaster Council will not disclose how much they have got for the site – I am sure it runs into millions.
“Is that money going to be spent in Doncaster or Denaby and Conisbrough, which was the original plan? What else are they going to take off us?
“Neither the council or Kingswood have been in touch with The Fourth Pillar.
“I want to know what availability will be made for the children of the locality for this centre which is in our back yard.”
Michael Lee, of Conisborough, asked about access for walkers. Simon Hoare, of Kingswood, said: “All these issues will be addressed in the planning application.
“We have to balance public access with child safety and security. Existing public access will be preserved and protected, though there may be some redirections.”