Plans have been unveiled to transform a former racing stables into a £22 million landmark leisure and tourism development.
In a move that will create 100 jobs and provide a boost to the south Dorset economy, proposals have been put forward for a holiday village at the former Whitcombe Manor racing stables near Dorchester.
It will consist of ‘high quality tourist accommodation’ including lodges, suites, apartments and fully serviced rooms, plus facilities open to all including a five star spa and leisure complex, an upmarket restaurant, conference and event rooms, and a wedding venue.
The outline application envisages the conversion and reuse of most of the existing buildings in the stables complex and their extension to create a total of about 112 holiday accommodation units. A new building constructed to the north would house the leisure facility and the owner’s house would be converted into a restaurant. Some of the stables would be retained as a riding facility.
If approved, the holiday village would take two years to build. Construction costs have been put at an estimated £22 million.
Prominent local businessman Barry Crook is behind the plan. He bought Whitcombe two years ago and has been working with a team of holiday industry specialists on the proposals including Graham Frampton.
They believe the ‘high quality development’ will provide a significant economic benefit to both Dorchester and Weymouth with substantial employment opportunities during both the development and operational phases. Once complete the holiday village would create 55 new full-time and 45 part-time jobs.
Whitcombe Manor Racing Stables, set in more than 300 acres was originally built and developed by businessman Peter Bolton in 1987. In its heyday, the stables produced champion horses – it was home to Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning Cool Ground among others.
The applicant states the estate later became run-down and the property fell into disrepair. It was eventually sold to horse breeder Liz Nelson, who further developed the stables to include housing for the jockeys, a large striking house for herself and Monymusk Stud. When she passed away in 2014, the stables and stud were put up for sale but again it failed to find any interest.
New owner Mr Crook decided something ‘more radical’ needed to be done with the site.
A statement with the planning application states: “A number of unsuccessful attempts to retain the existing use has led the applicant to seek an alternative function that will not only sustain the stables but generate a desirable destination that benefits the region as a whole.”
‘Opportunity to develop site into high quality tourist accommodation’
The application outlines how there will be a “mix of two, three, four, and five bedroom accommodation, designed to take advantage of the considerable growth in multigenerational holidays and of course the staycation”.
An outline planning application has been submitted to Dorset Council to erect extensions to existing buildings, new build holiday accommodation, cycle hire/store and indoor leisure facility. There is also a change of use bid to a holiday village to consist of use of existing buildings as holiday accommodation, restaurant and spa and use of land for parking.
The application is in outline format following discussions with Dorset Council officers and comments are now invited on the plan.
A spokesman for the applicant said: “The proposal is a wonderful opportunity to develop Whitcombe into much needed high quality tourist accommodation just behind the Jurassic Coast of a standard not available in Dorset. It would be set in such a fabulous location close to the county town and within easy reach of Weymouth and all the other attractions the county has to offer.
“We have worked hard to evolve the proposals to take account of the wonderful local landscape and to establish connections to the area’s footpaths and bridleways. Technical reports have been submitted including a full visual impact appraisal, a transport assessment and an ecological assessment to enhance the landscape and improve biodiversity.”
Source: Dorset Echo