Waterpark proposal slides out of view

Plans to construct a large leisure resort, including a 498-room hotel, near Chesterton have been halted by the council.

Published: Friday, 13th March 2020

Cherwell District Council’s planning committee refused planning permission for the proposal at a meeting on Thursday, 12 March. The Great Wolf Lodge water park and hotel would have occupied over 35,000 square metres, including 902 parking spaces. 
The scale of the development, its ‘institutional appearance’, and the expectation that most guests would travel by car along rural roads, are all cited in the reasons for refusal. The proposal was also found to be out of keeping with the rural character of the wider area. The application site is immediately east of the M40, covering over 18 hectares of Bicester Golf Club.
Cllr Colin Clarke, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “Cherwell District Council has a strategic vision for the growth of the district, but developing this particular site has never been part of it. 
“Lots of publicity has been generated around the proposed waterpark, but our job as councillors was to take a thorough and balanced view of the proposals as they were laid out before us. It would have been a large intrusion into an area of open countryside, offering no genuine access for visitors or employees who prefer to travel by public transport or bicycle.
“The committee concluded that the demerits of putting a leisure resort of this scale in this part of the countryside outweigh the possible benefits.”
The site is not allocated for development in Cherwell’s adopted Local Plan. Objections were raised by Bicester Town Council, Chesterton Parish Council and numerous other parish councils. Meanwhile, over 800 letters of objection were received and about 40 were sent in support. 
The council’s economic impact assessment on the proposal raised doubts about the quality of the jobs that would be created. It found that, as a Great Wolf Lodge is a self-contained destination resort, the spin-off benefits to the wider economy may have been limited. 
Oxfordshire County Council objected to the application on transport grounds, identifying congestion at the Middleton Stoney junction and the site’s inaccessibility by bus and bicycle. 
The applicant, Great Wolf Resorts, is an American company which operates a chain of indoor waterparks in the United States and Canada.