The wheels are in motion for a world class mountain bike destination after plans were approved for a multi-million pound holiday village at Glentress Forest, near Peebles.
Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays’ £11.3m bid to build 56 eco cabins and 16km of new trails was approved by Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee today (Monday).
The investment is set to create up to 60 year-round jobs and generate an extra £1 million into the local economy each year.
The new trail network should be completed in 12-month’s time, with the eco-cabins ready a year after.
Sallie Bailey, forest district manager for Forest Enterprise Scotland, said: “This is fantastic news for both the Tweed Valley and the Scottish Borders as a whole. In the next two years we will see a real step change in what we can offer visitors to the area in terms of forest tourism.
“The project is a prime example of the private and public sector working together to bring a substantial investment to the region.”
Forest Holidays will provide private sector investment of £10 million for the cabins, with the remainder being spent on the trails via funding from both Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays.
The combined attractions are part of the award winning Glentress Masterplan project, which includes a new mountain bike skills area and taster trails for all levels. The new trails, to be laid around the Glentress Peel development at Castle Hill, will incorporate elements of the previous ‘Freeride’ area, as well as a new route for walkers.
These new facilities will replace the existing skills and freeride areas at Buzzard’s nest, where the eco cabins will be built.
Forest Holidays insists that the eco-cabin development will be sensitively blended into the forest’s surroundings.
But Dorothy Thomson of Glenbield Farm, which shares a boundary with Glentress Forest, said building cabins at the Buzzard’s nest site would spoil the designated Special Landscape Area.
Addressing the planning committee, Mrs Thomson said: “I’m not against the idea of developing a holiday village, in fact I welcome it. It will bring economic development to Peebles. But this is not the right place.
“This site isn’t in Glentress Forest, it is at the edge of the forest, completely spoiling the valley. It’s set upon the most visible ridge and there are very few trees on the top of the hill to screen it.”
Andrew Brook, planning manager for Forest Holidays, said that the cabins will not be visible from the key view points surrounding the area, and members felt the benefits outweighed any minor landscape impacts.
East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing said: “I’m a great believer in protecting special landscape areas, however I’m very reassured by the photographs we have seen today and the screening that will be in place.
“The benefits to the area in terms of economy and tourism will outweigh any minor landscape impacts.”
Backing the plans, Kelso Councillor Simon Mountford said: “It’s innovative, it’s good for the local economy, it’s job creating, and iconic in its own way.”
Members unanimously agreed to approve the plans, but incorporated a condition that new planting would take place along the western edge if screening there was deemed too thin.
Bruce McKendrick, chief executive of Forest Holidays, added: “We are absolutely delighted that the planning committee recognised the important contribution Forest Holidays will make to tourism in the Borders.
“We now look forward to realising the many benefits that our cabin location will offer visitors to Glentress, the forest environment and local community.
“I am sure that our guests will delight in exploring this region and we are proud to contribute to the rural economy in Scotland, by supporting local businesses and helping to create a vibrant year-round tourist economy. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in Forest Enterprise Scotland, with a shared enthusiasm to make the Glentress Masterplan a reality.”