HUGE plans for an inland surf lagoon on the green belt and a raft of investment at a Dorset country park have been submitted by developers.

W. H. White has tabled proposals for land to the south east of the A31 Ringwood Road and to the north east of Brocks Pine in St Leonards.

Alongside the surf lagoon, the developer is seeking permission to demolish buildings at Avon Heath Country Park and replace them with new structures incorporating a cafe, toilets and car park kiosk.

The application includes provision of a new area of suitable alternative natural green space (SANG) and an extension of the country park.

The proposal is described as a “hybrid”, with part of it requesting full permission and just outline permission for other aspects.

Bournemouth Echo: Arist impression of the country park. Picture: W. H. WhiteArist impression of the country park. Picture: W. H. White

The outline element, which includes the surf lagoon and new country park buildings, seeks to establish the principle of development before further detailed submissions are made.

A statement on behalf of W. H. White by Chapman Lily Planning said: “The elements of this planning application are very much linked and will not come forward without each other.

"The demolition and replacement of existing buildings from the country park and the extension being provided to it, alongside the SANG, is very much intended to alleviate recreational disturbance on the neighbouring heathland where visitor pressures, especially dog walking, can negatively affect the ecology there, especially the wildlife.”

The developer controls the land on either side of Brocks Pine and Dorset Council control Avon Heath Country Park. The local authority will continue to own and operate the country park.

What is being proposed?

Full planning permission sought for:

  • Change of use of agricultural land (of approximately 11.5 hectares) to Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) to be released in phases.
  • Change of use of agricultural land (of approximately 3.8 hectares) to country park (as an extension to the existing Avon Heath Country Park).
  • Demolition of existing cafe and visitor centre in Avon Heath Country Park.
  • Engineering works to remove hard standing from existing country park and restore the land.
  • Means of access and car parking to serve the SANG and country park.

Outline planning permission sought for:

  • Development of a surf lagoon, outdoor climbing wall, visitor reception, café and administration building, and associated landscaping, together with ancillary glamping pod site and its service buildings.
  • Erection of buildings in the country park extension incorporating a café, toilets, and car park kiosk (to replace demolished country park buildings), play facilities and SuDS features.
  • Erection of skate park, cycle park and wild play structures.

Will the surf lagoon have any other facilities?

The surfing lake itself will feature a cove-shaped lagoon which will produce white-water waves for beginners, up to 1.8-metre barrelling waves for elite surfers and adaptive surfing (assistance and accessibility) to facilities. Based on similar developments elsewhere, the lagoon is expected to be able to cater for approximately 30 surfers at any one time.

In addition, it will have the following facilities and amenities:

  • Surfing visitor building with green roof
  • Visitor centre (relocated from the country park), forest school and café/toilets
  • Cycle park
  • Skate park
  • Recreational walking routes
  • Green open spaces
  • Seasonal camping field
  • A new roundabout access off of Brocks Pine
  • 380 space car park
  • Retention of the existing lorry park
  • New pedestrian access points linking St. Leonards to the site via the existing pedestrian over-bridge
  • Landscaping

Bournemouth Echo: Artist impression of the new visitor centre. Picture: W. H. WhiteArtist impression of the new visitor centre. Picture: W. H. White

What do surf authorities think?

Surfing England, the national governing Body for surfing, is supportive of the opportunity that the development could provide.

In a statement, Ben Powis, chief executive of Surfing England, said: “We are seeing an explosion of interest in surf lagoons and it’s amazing to see the UK taking a real lead in investment and deployment of this incredible new technology.

“The south coast has a vibrant surf scene and having world class waves on tap will help grow the local surfing community, provide training space for future Olympic and Paralympic athletes and open up surfing as a sport and lifestyle to a whole new audience.”

Has the developer consulted residents?

A public consultation took place in recent months with an online website set up to welcome comments.

An exhibition event to discuss the plans was held at St Leonards and St Ives Village Hall in September.

W. H. White said of 512 residents that responded, 62 per cent supported the idea of building a surfing lagoon at Brocks Pine, while 66 per cent supported proposed improvements at the country park and the new greenspace.

What is the developer's background?

Chapman Lily Planning's planning, design and access statement provides some information on W. H. White.

It said: "The management team at W. H. White Ltd. has a history of delivering successful leisure developments in the Dorset region being the developer and operator of Tower Park in Poole during the 198’s and managing one of the region’s finest golf courses at Remedy Oak.

"W. H. White also own and operate the popular Canford Park SANG in Bearwood, Poole.

"W. H. White will work closely with the future operator of the surf lagoon, who will be selected based on their experience in the construction and operation of such facilities."

Where is the proposed site?

The overall 32.8 hectare site is located south east of St Leonards, on the south side of the A31 Ringwood Road - a short drive down from the Ashley Heath junction with the A338.

Chapman Lily Planning detail the following aspects of the site location directly requiring consideration:

  • It is in the Green Belt
  • It is partly within 400 metres of the heathland (including national and international wildlife designations)
  • It is accessed off of the A31 which is an ‘A Road’ and part of the Primary Road Network
  • It is within the 500m impact risk zone of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Surface water flooding
  • Forest heath landscape character type

Who will determine the scheme?

The application has been submitted to Dorset Council's planning department.

Due to the scale of the proposals and the likely interest from the community, it would be an application that would be determined by members of the planning committee at a public meeting, but this is likely to be at least many months in the future.

The application is live on Dorset Council’s online planning portal, with residents able to make formal comments in support and objection.