Business Monthly: huge range of outdoor assets a boost to region

The great outdoors isn't just good for a great lifestyle. It's good for business and jobs. Developers, manufacturers and the leisure and hospitality industries are increasingly realising the economic potential of the region's attractions for those who love the outdoor life.

Wednesday, 6th April 2016, 11:06 am
Climber at Burbage. Picture Duncan Philpott.

Consumer spending on outdoor activities in Sheffield alone is estimated to be around £93million and the sector has become so important that Sheffield describes itself as ‘The Outdoor City’.

It has the highest household spend on outdoor equipment in the country, and more than 200 outdoor equipment businesses.

Estimates are that the city has 10,000 climbers.

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Two major new projects in the region reflect this trend: the prestigious European Tour golf course at Doncaster announced last week at the global property conference MIPIM Cannes, and the £400million Peak Resort development on the boundary of the Peak National Park at Chesterfield.

Rossington Hall, a future European Tour Destination and tournament venue, was unveiled as part of Sheffield City Region’s promotional activities at MIPIM, the world’s biggest property event in Cannes in March.

In the scheme the picturesque site will be transformed into a world class golf complex and resort under the European Tour Destinations banner.

An 18-hole championship course will be designed by former Ryder Cup and European Tour star Neil Coles, and is in line to host three European Tour tournaments within the next 10 years.

David MacLaren, director of property and venue development at The European Tour, said: “We are delighted to offer our support to the Rossington Hall golf project and hope to bring both a long-term relationship and top flight professional tournament golf to the venue once it is developed.”

The proposed scheme is close to Doncaster Sheffield Airport and a new link road from the M18, with Doncaster Racecourse, Yorkshire Wildlife Park and the Northern Racing College all nearby attractions.

The racecourse’s legendary St Leger race alone contributes £45million to the local economy.

At Peak Resort, at Unstone near Chesterfield, work is due to start in September and leisure, health, sport and education facilities are expected to create 1,300 FTE jobs.

A high-profile partnership between US-based Grand Heritage Hotels and Chesterfield’s Birchall Properties to develop the site was announced by David Cameron and President Obama in January 2015 when the Prime Minister said the partnership “will deliver a phenomenal boost to the leisure industry in the Peak District”.

The resort will include a university campus for 400 students focusing on hospitality, sport and medical expertise.

Sheffield City Region’s Investment Fund has contributed £2.8m to build an access road and new public footpaths and bridleways linking to the National Park. The site was reclaimed from open cast mining in the 1990s.

Events such as the European jetski championships at Doncaster’s Lakeside have also brought crowds flocking to the region.

Le Tour in 2014 massively boosted enthusiasm for cycling, and the region, which is at the heart of the Trans Pennine Trail from East to West coasts, is ideally placed for safe and family-friendly days out in the fresh air.

The quirky ‘Eroica Britannia’ retro cycling festival, launched in Bakewell, brings cyclists in from around the world.

Far from being just a cycling festival, Eroica had a £3.2million impact – £2.7million at the festival itself and the rest on the wider Peak economy.

Last year 50,000 visitors came to the festival over three days and not just for the joys of the open road – they shopped at 200 trade stalls (many international), enjoyed the food festival Graze and celebrated independent music. The festival has become so successful it has been hosted abroad in Japan, California and Spain.

Walkers love not just the Peak District but also the miles of forest and lakes offered by Robin Hood country around Clumber Park in Bassetlaw.

In Bolsover, Hardwick Hall is the National Trust’s most visited house. The RSPB bird sanctuary at Old Moor, sitting on the TransPennine Trail, is visited by keen bird watchers from all over the UK, plus children and, often, grandchildren.

And in the pipeline is the visionary Olympic Legacy Park to be established in the former Don Valley Stadium, providing exercise and fitness activities for the community together with world-leading research.

The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, a Sheffield Hallam initiative to be based there, recently signed a £1.5million deal with Toshiba to work on cutting-edge health technologies.

I am delighted that one of our great strengths in the region, our outdoors opportunity, is coming to the fore and being recognised.

The final version of a strategy to make Sheffield the UK’s premier city for lovers of the outdoors has been signed off.

The challenge is to make the recommendations it contains a reality over the next three years.

The themes of the council’s Outdoor City Economic Strategy remain the same as those contained in the plan’s draft version, published last October, but some changes have been made after a public consultation.

Ten key actions have been drawn up that the council wants to see happen.

One of these is an ambition to improve infrastructure to support the strategy’s aim - such as making sure there are good-quality footpaths and cycling routes connecting the city to the countryside.