DONCASTER’S failed £55 million Earth Centre is to become a multi-million pound activity centre for children.
Doncaster Council today announced it had sold the site of the Millennium Project flop in Conisbrough to Kingswood - a provider of educational and adventure activity services which expects to create 200 jobs within 18 months of opening.
The company is planning to make a multi-million pound investment to transform the site into a flagship activity centre for schoolchildren, employing people in work, ranging from educational instruction through to IT support and catering.
Kingswood has also agreed a substantial subsidy for schools in Doncaster to make the proposed site accessible to local children and young people.
Peter Davies, Mayor of Doncaster, said: “I am delighted to welcome Kingswood to Doncaster. This is a very exciting development for the borough and will further strengthen our offer to visitors.
“Kingswood’s winning bid represents a unique and natural continuation of the site’s heritage as a centre for learning, focused on environmental sustainability and targeting young people.
“I am particularly pleased Kingswood has committed to a subsidy for schools in the Doncaster area to ensure local children and young people will be able to access the exciting educational facilities the site has to offer.”
Coun Jonathan Wood, cabinet member for business and regeneration, said: “Throughout this process we have said whoever takes on this site needs a business model that is sustainable without any injection of public money.
“Kingswood has a proven track record as a successful business both in the UK and Europe. The company will run the 50-acre site as a wholly private business, creating jobs and opportunities for local people.”
Kingswood, which operates eight residential centres in the UK and one in France, plans to retain and refurbish the existing buildings as well as build new accommodation units for visiting students and teachers.
Initially the centre will feature accommodation for 400 pupils and teachers, an 11,000 sq foot indoor activity and sports hall, as well as classrooms for ICT, field studies and conferences.
It will offer low height initiative exercises, a high adrenalin rope park for team building activities, and evening entertainments including indoor and outdoor amphitheatres and performing arts facilities.
Linda Addy, Kingswood managing director, said “We shall take great care in ensuring the facilities are affordable for local schools, so teachers and pupils across South Yorkshire can take advantage of this important educational resource on their doorstep.”
The Earth Centre, one of the high profile Millennium projects, went bankrupt in 2004 after failing to attract enough visitors.
It was put up for sale just over a year ago, after Mayor Peter Davies raised concerns about the £200,000-a-year cost to Doncaster Council of maintaining the site.
He described the Earth Centre project at the time as one of the largest disasters in the country.
Devised as an environmental attraction, the Earth Centre was the first of the country’s flagship Millennium projects to open.