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Joint venture formed to develop the Gateway at PEAK Resort

It'll be the first national park gateway of its kind in the UK.

Specialist developer Milligan has formed a unique joint venture with landowner Birchall Properties. Working together with Chesterfield Borough Council, the Peak District National Park Authority and the University of Derby they plan to develop the UK’s first fully serviced national park gateway, consented on the eastern boundary of the Peak District.

The Gateway at PEAK will be part of the 300-acre PEAK Resort development, where works for the all-weather, all-year, all-ages Adrenalin World are already underway, planning for opening in Spring 2021. PEAK Resort also has planning permission for up to 2,000 hotel rooms and 250 lodges as well as a whole range of leisure, education and entertainment facilities, attracting investment and creating employment opportunities.

The Gateway at Peak

Chesterfield Borough Council CEO, Huw Bowen said; “PEAK Resort forms a key part of our growth plan for Chesterfield and we are delighted to support Milligan as they develop their plans to create the Gateway at PEAK. It will be a tourist attraction of national significance, supported by the wider catchment and improved connectivity provided by the advent of HS2. It will provide sustainable transport links to attractions and activities within Chesterfield and the National Park. We are also keen to ensure that local people benefit from the Gateway at PEAK through skills development and access to jobs, by working with Milligan and future operators helping them utilise local business supply chains wherever practicable.”

Chesterfield, already famous for its crooked spire, medieval architecture and Victorian Market Hall, is set to become the Peak’s gateway town, as currently 61% of visits are from the ‘east side’ of the park. The Gateway at PEAK itself, just four miles from Chesterfield, will shift visitors from their cars into more sustainable modes of transport and manage access into the national park landscape, reducing pressure on local communities and impacts on wildlife.

During the initial months of the Coronavirus outbreak and as lockdown restrictions have lifted across the UK, making the most of outdoor spaces has been a priority for most and the staycation market has exploded. This has not come without its drawbacks. The park already attracts 13 million tourism visits each year and demand for all national parks is predicted to rise exponentially, so many protected landscapes are naturally keen to explore opportunities to minimise the impacts of increased visitor numbers.

The Country Land and Business Association recently wrote to the Education Secretary asking that The Countryside Code be taught again in schools as an entire generation is being left without knowledge of how to treat and protect our natural environment. The Countryside Code, as we know it today, was published nearly 40 years ago. One of the purposes of the gateway will be to inform visitors on local wildlife, heritage and encourage responsible visiting through a series of experiences and digital technology inspired by the #PeakDistrictProud campaign launched earlier this spring. As 85% of visitors currently arrive by car, a gateway facility providing accommodation, parking and services for onward travel into the park by foot, bike or in public electric vehicles through park-and-ride, will help mitigate their environmental impact and help to reduce traffic congestion.

Melanie Taylor, head of retail relations at Milligan, said; “Our vision is to create a sustainable hub for like-minded businesses and a basecamp for the sustainable exploration of the UK’s first national park. As post-lockdown demand for outdoor pursuits grows, we must enable and facilitate the sustainable use of natural spaces and protect them for generations to come. A gateway could provide information for visitors to book single or multi-day itineraries, explore the area using more sustainable, less polluting modes of transport and buy or hire outdoor activity equipment to try out new activities.”

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park added; “As we approach our 70th year as the UK’s first national park, supporting sustainable gateways and opportunities for visitors to experience what we have to offer in a responsible way is vital to our future. It also resonates with our aim for everyone to be ‘PeakDistrictProud’ in their approach to spending time with us. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the role that national parks and our outdoor spaces can play in our recovery and long-term wellbeing. It feels both timely and exciting to be working collaboratively with Milligan and Birchall Properties to create the first Peak District National Park gateway as part of the PEAK Resort. The Peak District’s unique position in the heart of the country already makes us accessible to millions and our involvement in the Gateway at PEAK will help unlock our wildlife, cultural heritage and natural beauty to others, befitting a pioneering approach to sustainable tourism.”

Over the next two months, the partnership led by Milligan will be undertaking a major marketing and research phase discussing the opportunity with companies both large and small, local and national that might be interested in participating. They will be looking to create partnerships with brands that align with the Gateway at PEAK’s values and vision, to integrate products, experiences and expertise into the delivery of a world-class visitor experience.

Once this phase is completed in September, a detailed building specification will be finalised, and it is intended that construction will start in 2021.

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