Our proposal

What are you proposing to build?

A new activity centre which will be home to the East of England’s only Olympic-grade climbing walls including Lead, Speed and Bouldering, as well as one of the country’s largest Clip ‘n’ Climb arenas for family users, a toddler play facility, an additional café and private hire facilities.  The centre will be built on the existing Lakeside car park with a new car park being built on the edge of Oak Meadow. 

When did planning start for this project?’

We’ve been working on our plans since April 2017. Our ideas began with plans for an indoor facility of some sort down at Lakeside as part of our Master-planning exercise and following various consultations around spatial planning at that end of the Park with our partners and key stakeholders, we now have our full proposal. Further public consultation took place in November 2018 prior to us submitting our planning application and an exhibition of the plans was held in March 2019.  In December 2019 we submitted further technical information to Peterborough City Council and again in December 2020 before receiving planning permission in March 2021. 

Why do we need anything additional in the park?

Typically, Nene Park is quieter during the winter months, but our hope is that a new indoor activity centre will encourage visitors year-round, in all weathers. The development of the new centre forms part of our commitment to improve the Park, allowing us to better deliver on our charitable objectives, and to offer a unique fitness experience to our visitors whilst also improving other visitor facilities such as our toilets and car park. 

Why do we need another climbing wall in Peterborough?

This facility will be far more than just a climbing wall and will offer an all-weather experience to a wide range of audiences, ensuring Nene Park delivers to its visitors all year round. There is no longer another climbing wall in Peterborough, as the climbing wall in Bretton sadly closed its doors in 2020.  The nearest other large climbing facilities are in Cambridge or further afield, over 45 minutes’ drive away. We are working with Peterborough Mountaineering Club to ensure they have a presence in the new centre. There are few facilities which currently compare to this within England.

What are you doing to make this building blend with the local environment?

Whilst the majority of the building is at a level similar to the existing surrounding trees, the main tower will be visible across the site and the intention is that this is designed to be an elegant sculptural feature which will be a pleasure to see. The proposed building would be around 34 metres tall at its highest point, but there are very few properties which will directly overlook the new building as it sits within a natural valley. We have undertaken a range of visual impact assessment to ensure we understand how the building will sit in the landscape. The ambition is that the building will sit well in the landscape but also be a beautiful structure to put Peterborough on the map. The proposed building will also have very minimal exterior lighting to reduce the potential of light pollution within the Park, and the materials used for the cladding are currently under consideration to ensure that the building fits well within its local environment. Furthermore, we will be planting a substantial number of additional trees around the new building as part of extensive landscaping. 

Why are you putting an Olympic-standard climbing wall in the middle of a Country Park? Shouldn’t Ferry Meadows be all about nature and peace and quiet?

Our proposed site for the new activity centre is down by an existing hub of activity at Lakeside. Our visitors come to Nene Park for a variety of different activities – whether that’s dog walking, education activities, watersports, fishing, cycling or running – activity is a central theme to all of that and this is an opportunity for us to put Peterborough and Nene Park on the map  for recreation on a larger scale. Nene Park stretches from close to the city centre out to Wansford and within this there are areas which are kept specifically for quiet enjoyment and other areas for more active uses. We are very keen to maintain that peaceful refuge which many of our visitors come to enjoy at Ferry Meadows, which is why all of this activity is being contained to one area of the Park.

Why are you putting it into Ferry Meadows, when part of your strategy for Nene Park is to extend people’s visits to other areas of the Park such as Thorpe Meadows and your agricultural land etc?

Our proposed site for the new activity centre is down by an existing hub of activity at Lakeside. We want to keep all of that activity in one hub within the Park to make it accessible but also to not disturb our visitors who just wish to come and enjoy the peace of the Park. There are additional plans within our Masterplan for how we will extend our visitors’ visits across Nene Park in its entirety, which will roll out in due course. This will also keep the current watersports activities and the proposed new activity centre together so they can be enjoyed together and benefit from the visitors to both.

How much do you expect to increase visitor numbers?

We expect an increase of around 15% in the number of visitors we receive to the Park throughout the year, however we envisage the increase will be during times where we currently have fewer visitors, such as during the winter months or times of bad weather.

Who are you working with on this project?

We are working with a range of professional consultants and partners including Landscape Architects SLR who worked with the Trust on the Masterplan, Glenn Howells Architects, engineering consultancies Webb Yates and Cundalls, construction consultants Edmond Shipway and planning consultants Savills. We are also liaising with many other relevant bodies such as UK Sport, Sport England, Living Sport and the British Mountaineering Council.

The centre

What does ‘Olympic-standard’ mean?

An Olympic-standard climbing wall means that it will include all 3 Olympic disciplines – Lead, Speed and Bouldering. These three disciplines were debuted at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and have been confirmed for the 2024 Olympics. All these disciplines featured in the Olympics as part of a multi-discipline event similar to a triathlon but held in individual stages.

The centre will also offer lots of climbing opportunities for all levels of capability and the Olympic standard walls will be set in such a way that makes them available for all when they are not set up for competitions or training.

How big will it be?

The highest wall will be the competition lead climbing wall at 20m in height. The other climbing walls will vary in height from around 3-4m for bouldering (which take place without ropes over mats) then between 6-15m for the other roped climbing walls. The competition speed wall will be 15m tall.

The spire of the building will be around 34m in height and the main hall of the building will be between 6-12m. The Clip n Climb walls will be around 10m in height.

What else is going to be there apart from a climbing wall? E.g toilets, café etc.

Alongside the Olympic-standard climbing walls and the Clip ‘n’ Climb walls, the activity centre will contain a toddler play facility, a café, showers and changing facilities and private hire facilities. We have also put in place new outdoor play facilities at Fox Play and will accompany this with improved pedestrian plazas around the building, extensive biodiversity rich planting designs and outdoor event spaces, and we are also exploring a high ropes experience as part of the project.

How does this fit in with Nene Outdoors?

The activity centre will complement our existing offer at Nene Outdoors, adding even more activities for our visitors to enjoy. We currently operate small climbing walls as part of the Nene Outdoors offer which are regularly used by school groups and the general public.

How much will it cost to use the centre?

Our current plan for pricing is based on averages across a large range of centres. There will be a range of ways to pay likely to include memberships, multi visit passes and concession rates.  We are also establishing a variety of funding options to support us in delivering subsidised and free sessions.

Will you provide NICAS training for young climbers?

Yes, we will be part of NICAS and NIBAS and will offer this to users.

What are the benefits?

Why did you settle on a climbing wall and not something else?

Climbing is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the world and there is a great demand for a quality climbing facility in Peterborough and our wider region. We also know through our own consultations with the public that indoor facilities available all year round are what many people want us to provide.

As the physical and mental health of both young people and adults emerges as a growing concern, especially post-COVID, Nene Park Trust, in line with its charitable objectives, wants to ensure that all its recreational and leisure offerings have proven wellbeing and educational benefits. In doing this we also wish to support the aspirations of Peterborough’s wider health and wellbeing strategies. Climbing, both as recreation and serious sport, supports healthy physical and mental development. A natural human activity loved by participants of all ages, climbing particularly helps children and young people develop core body strength, agility and coordination, as well as focus, mindfulness and problem solving skills - all whilst having fun!

By offering both recreation ‘clip and climb’ activities, as well as Olympic standard facilities, children and families can climb for recreation, or begin a competitive climbing journey with no limit on their aspirations - we are looking forward to supporting the stars of the future!

We also know that climbing builds social skills, group work and trust, and crucially for today’s COVID-emergent young people, confidence.

For more serious sports participants the top class facilities at our Lakeside Centre will provide a much needed venue for practice and competition in Peterborough and further afield, especially since Peterborough’s 67 year old, 200- member climbing club has recently lost its indoor climbing facility. The introduction of climbing as an Olympic sport in 2020 means we anticipate ‘heightened’ interest as soon as we open the centre, offering a significant boost for Peterborough’s leisure scene and visitor appeal.

We estimate that this popular facility will increase our visitor numbers by 15% through keeping visits up during the winter and poor weather, and leading to an estimated £2m annual impact on our local economy.

What does this mean for Peterborough?

There is a great potential for Peterborough to build a reputation amongst climbing enthusiasts, as well as encouraging newcomers to the sport. It is predicted that the increased activity in Nene Park and the leisure sector in general could bring over £2million per year to the local economy. The building is also designed by an award-winning team and will be something for the city to be proud of.

More facilities in the Park will allow us to hold further charity and community events whilst a new exciting activity in the area will attract newcomers to Nene Park and will establish Peterborough as a destination.

The location

Why are you putting it there?

The area we have chosen, next to Gunwade Lake, alongside the Lakeside Kitchen & Bar, makes efficient use of space with a minimal impact on the surrounding landscape and environment. Development in this area creates a hub of activity for our visitors and also ensures that development is confined to one discrete area.  The existing car park is in need of substantial repair to make it fit for purpose.  By encompassing this within the project we can ensure this significant capital investment is balanced off with other new facilities that deliver income and social benefit. All these factors mean it is the most appropriate location for us to use within the Park.

Access, traffic and parking

Are you providing more car parking spaces if you are expecting more people to use the Park?

We will build a new, larger car park which would provide over 100 extra spaces between the current car park and overflow car park on Oak Meadow. The new car park will also have a permeable and natural coloured surface to fit in with the landscape and cause minimal environment disturbance.  None of the Oak trees on the meadow will be removed as part of the project.

What is going to happen to the current car park at Lakeside?

The new indoor facility is being built upon the existing car park at Lakeside, and in fact the space around the centre will be greener – since this is currently a car park, we will transform it to put in place more grass, biodiversity rich planting beds and plant more trees in that area.

How will you cope with the additional traffic using the road into the Park?

As part of the project we will be improving our traffic management creating a one-way system through the new car park and into the overflow car park. This will enable smoother movement of traffic during peak periods and reduce the amount of two-way traffic on the narrowest section of road.  We will also take the opportunity to undertake improvements to Lakeside road at the same time which are required regardless of this project.

Drainage and ecology

Does the new building create a flood issue?

Whilst the site’s proximity to Gunwade Lake means that it does lie within Flood Zone 3, the building has been specifically designed with this in mind from the start, to ensure flood water can pass freely around the building and foundation and cause no damage or impact downstream. Given that the facility will be based upon the current car park, the size of the impermeable, hard area will actually reduce. For comparison purposes, the building will have a very similar format to that of the current building at Lakeside, raised up from the ground.

You’re going to be affecting the local habitat, how are you going to mitigate the impact?

Due to the fact that the site will be based upon the current Lakeside car park, there is very little habitat value on the current site. Our surveys have shown that there are no priority species in the area which will be affected and there will therefore be very little impact to wildlife and the habitat surrounding the site. The vast majority of trees will be retained around the building with substantial additional tree planting planned. The proposed building will also have minimal exterior lighting to ensure safety for visitors but minimise detrimental effects on wildlife, also reducing light pollution in the Park.  The building will also provide habitat through provision of nesting boxes and the soft landscaping proposed around the new arrival area is designed to provide a sustained food source for pollinators and improved visual interest for our visitors.

What about the bats?

Bats are found all over the UK as many people will know from having seen them flying in their gardens at dusk, however their numbers have significantly decline over recent decades.  The park is home to many bats and we continually work to improve the habitat for them and a whole range of wildlife.  As part of this project, we have undertaken extensive ecology work to ensure we understand the behaviour of bats in this area and do not adversely impact them.  As the site is currently a car park and an area of amenity grassland there is very little use by bats.  There is a lot of bat activity nearby on the water’s edge and the lighting of the new building has been planned with this in mind to ensure light levels are kept low in this area.  We have also identified ways to adapt the existing lighting at Lakeside as part of this project so we expect a positive impact on local bat populations.

What about the otters?

Desk study records were requested for the proposed site in June 2020 from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC). The closest record of otter provided by CPERC was 1km east of the Site within the River Nene. As the recent sightings of otter in the Park are in closer proximity to the proposed activity centre site the impacts on otters and relevant recommendations have been reviewed to ensure that this species has been fully considered. The habitats present on the proposed development site are not considered suitable for otters and are regularly disturbed as a result of recreational use by the general public. It is therefore considered that otters are absent from the development site itself and will not be directly impacted as a result of the proposed activity Centre.

About Nene Park Trust / The finances

Is Nene Park Trust a charity?

Yes. Nene Park Trust was established in 1988 to ensure the protection and maintenance of the Park. The charity’s objective is to provide a recreational opportunity for visitors and improve the quality of life of the local community.

What else does Nene Park Trust offer in the Park?

There are a wide range of activities and experiences available here in the Park. From the Nene Outdoors watersports and activity centre, to the Lakeside Kitchen and Bar and our visitor centre, there are opportunities for everyone to have a great time!

You look after the Park – how are you going to run a commercial facility?

The Trust already successfully runs a variety of commercial properties, such as Nene Outdoors, and works very closely together with our tenants such as Rutland Cycling and Lakeside Kitchen & Bar.  This centre will be run by specialist staff appointed for this purpose supported by the wider Nene Park team.

How will Nene Park Trust benefit from this?

Nene Park Trust expects to see around a 15% increase in use of Nene Park as a result of these facilities throughout the year, with the majority of impact during the winter and when the weather is poor. We anticipate the facility will turnover in excess of £1 million per year. The real value of this project is the social return which this investment would deliver above a traditional investment, through the provision of better facilities for our visitors.

How can Nene Park Trust afford to do this?

We do not anticipate the full cost of the activity centre being covered by Nene Park Trust. We are currently working with various partners to identify funding opportunities in the form of grants and we are talking to a number of funders and other stakeholders about sharing the cost of construction, as well as identifying sponsorship opportunities once the centre is in use. We will only go ahead with the development on the basis it will generate enough income to make it financially sustainable to support our other activities and maintenance of the Park.

How much income do you anticipate generating from the new facility?

We predict that with the expected increase in visitors to the Park and the reputation we will build among climbing enthusiasts, we anticipate seeing a turnover of over £1million. The facility will also act as a significant boost to the local economy and leisure sector, with a potential further benefit of over £2million a year to Peterborough’s economy.

But don’t you already have enough money in the bank?

Nene Park Trust does hold a large endowment fund. However, under its constitution it is only permitted to spend the income generated from its endowment fund and cannot spend the capital.

Since the Trust began in 1988, other reserves have accrued and, in more recent years, these reserves have been used to improve the Park – including the creation of a new watersports centre and lakeside café, Park signs and furniture and the new Fox, Otter and Badger playgrounds to name just a few.

The charity relies heavily on the investment income generated from its reserves to fund the day to day running costs of Nene Park. The Trust has a 999 year lease and therefore needs to maintain the real value of its reserves in the long term, so as to generate the much-needed investment income required to protect the Park for many years to come.

What happens next?

Planning permission was granted by Peterborough City Council Planning Committee on 23 March 2021. The first stage dictated by the planning permission is to create the new car park. Work will commence on constructing the new car park in September 2022 following a programme of archaeology works.

When do you expect the new centre to be finished?

We expect that the facility will be opened in 2024.