THE first plans for an ambitious £85 million tourism park in the east end of Glasgow have been revealed.
The Wildside project would be built on an area which served as a rubbish dump for decades and would overlook the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games athletes’ village.
Three biospheres with polar, temperate and tropical climates could be open up to 14 hours a day if the venture goes ahead. Along with a visitor centre and gift shop, the park would feature six restaurants and bars, a 200-bed hotel and an “eco hotel”.
Now a series of meetings will be held in the local area to consult with residents.
The group behind the scheme insisted last night it had significant funding available from banks and “Scottish investors”, but would need up to 20 per cent from the public purse. It says that money would be made back in “substantial” jobs created for the area.
Wildside would be adjacent to a £5m woodland project approved a week ago by South Lanarkshire Council for the Cuningar Loop, a narrow strip of land framed by the Clyde River and about a mile from Rutherglen town centre.
The three biospheres would provide sustainable habitats for wildlife, conservation and education work. Unlike zoos or wildlife centres that are open only during the day, the entertainment portion would make Wildside unique, said Steven Minion a director for Glasgow Wildside, registered in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
It is not the first wildlife proposal for the area, which had previously been a suggested site for a £35m new zoo for Glasgow.
As well as home to a water works, quarrying and mining in the past, Cuningar Loop served as a dumping ground for demolitions around Glasgow from 1900 to 1970, and some clean-up of the site would be needed, said Mr Minion.
He said Wildside’s parent firm took over the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in 2008 and took it from 15,000 visitors a year to nearly 400,000 last year. Glasgow has good demographics for this proposed project and he hoped to find another site in the city if planning permission failed to materialise for Cunigar Loop.
He said: “We are very keen for it to be there. This is not just about entertainment. We are about a sustainable habitat for local wildlife.”
Mr Minion said the site could naturally flow into the 30-hectare woodland planned by the Forestry Commission and Clyde Gateway.
The public will get a chance to hear about the proposals at sessions today and tomorrow at Rutherglen Town Hall, and detailed plans would be submitted in the summer, said Mr Minion.
Spa architect Jean-Paul Blissett is understood to be designing the centre that counts as partners Ashley House and contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, a firm that has already delivered parts of the 2014 Games sites, including the Emirates Arena and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
McAlpine director Boyd McFee said: “We are delighted to be working with Wildside to deliver this major new attraction for Scotland.”
A spokesperson for Clyde Gateway said: “We are aware of the application and are in dialogue with Wildside World and will continue to be in dialogue over the coming months.”
The woodland project is expected to attract 100,000 visitors to the site by 2021, according to Clyde Gateway. The council also approved last week a new footbridge to link the area with the athletes’ village and the National Cycle Route.