A £10million project aimed at bringing more visitors to mountain bike in Scotland and boost domestic adventure sports tourism has been unveiled.
Aberdeenshire-based charity the North East Trail Centre Organsiation (Netco) has launched its plans to build a “world-class” mountain bike park and adventure centre with snows sports near Aberdeen.
Following a year-long feasibility study, Netco said the community-based project is an opportunity to boost the visitor economy of north east Scotland, and create a unique asset for north east communities.
Durris Forest in Aberdeenshire, situated between Stonehaven and Banchory, is the proposed site for the new centre. The group intends to apply for a community asset transfer (CAT) of land at Durris.
A Netco-led project team of professional advisors will be formed to manage the development’s design and build phases, and secure funding, if plans get the go-ahead.
Construction will be planned in phases, the first of which Netco said would focus on building mountain biking trail networks and installing an uplift facility. The group intends to operate and maintain the facility if approved.
Public consultations with the local community will take place early next year ahead of a formal planning application to Aberdeenshire council.
Netco was established in 2015 to drive forward plans for a large-scale mountain bike facility near Aberdeen – identified as a strategic priority by Scottish Cycling in its 2014-2019 facilities strategy.
Netco chairman Martin Byers said: “It’s the perfect time to launch our vision of a multi-adventure activity mountain bike park, which we firmly believe is greatly needed in Aberdeenshire.
“Our plans represent an opportunity to inspire more people to discover outdoor sports in a natural environment, bolster Scotland’s current mountain biking facilities strategy, create jobs and help bring sustained growth to our local economy.
READ MORE: A guide to mountain biking at Glentress
“Durris is an excellent venue due in part to its convenient proximity to Aberdeen and surrounding towns. It’s rural but easily accessible from the A90 and new Western Peripheral route once opened. This really enhances the location’s potential to achieve our vision and attract people here from across Scotland, the UK and overseas,” Mr Byers added.
The proposed project is predicted to cost between £8million and £11million to construct.
It will span some 256 hectares with more than 45km (28 miles) of purpose-build trails graded for all abilities.
The development could lead to as many as 70 new jobs locally, of which, around 45 jobs could be full-time positions.
A further 25 new full-time jobs could be created by the project directly.
It is estimated that the development could contribute over £2million of gross added value (GVA) a year to the economy in north east Scotland.
And the proposed year-round development could attract in excess of 100,000 overnight and day visitors a year, making it potentially one of Aberdeenshire’s largest leisure tourist-related businesses.
A new outdoor snow sports centre is included in the group’s concept designs. If plans go-ahead, it is believed to be the first mountain bike project in Scotland to feature dry slope skiing and snowboarding facilities.
And the proposed development could also be the first mountain bike park in the UK to install a mechanical open-air chairlift designed primarily for mountain bike users.
Belinda Miller, head of economic development at Aberdeenshire Council, said: "This is an exciting and innovative proposal from Netco and one that has the potential to put this part of Scotland on the map for family-friendly adventure sports facilities.
"Our regional economic strategy is founded on diversification and a mountain bike and snowsports centre would certainly help us towards this."
Graeme McLean, project manager at Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), part of Scottish Cycling, said the proposed new development in Aberdeenshire makes “eminent sense”.
"The north east is Scotland’s final geographical gap in large mountain biking amenities. These exciting and ambitious proposals would propel the region towards becoming one of the UK's leading mountain bike destinations,” he said.
Mr Byers said that the group wants to create a “multifaceted adventure sports facility” with mountain biking at its core. He added: “Incorporating snow sports enhances the appeal of the development for everyone and opens up market opportunities.
“Nature-based tourism is a billion-pound industry in Scotland, supporting thousands of jobs. And it’s a growing sector with demand for a broad range of outdoor adventure pursuits increasing.”
He continued: “While the project’s tourism potential is key to generating economic benefits for local businesses and people, and maintaining the facility’s financial sustainability, the scope of our ambitions is far wider. Creating a sustainable community development driven by the long-term social, health and wellness, and environmental needs of those living locally is our fundamental motivation.”
The proposals feature an environmentally-friendly ‘hub’ building, boasting a restaurant, children’s play zone, education and corporate meeting rooms, wellbeing centre, bike shop, snow sports and bike rental, changing rooms, bike repairs and wash. Included is a 150-space car park and six-space large bus parking area.
Accommodation for visitors in the form of glamping is proposed.
Concept trail network plans include cross-country singletrack, downhill runs, flow trails, natural enduro trails and a pump track.
Some of the development’s adventure pursuits could include ziplining, orienteering, toboggan runs, and tubing.
And outdoor nature and learning activities such as woodland walks, paths for runners, early year forest schools, stargazing, sport coaching, and an adventure play park for children, could form part of the plans.
Mr Byers said that the group’s proposals are, however, still in development. “Netco is actively working with the local mountain bike community and public, during these initial planning stages, to find out what facilities everybody would like us to put forward within the overall proposals,” he said, adding: “We’re confident that the final plan will be regarded as world-class in terms of its design, construction and product offering.”
News of the project comes as the lucrative mountain bike and adventure sports tourism markets continue to play a major role in boosting Scotland’s visitor economy.
Mountain biking visitors pumped £119million a year into the Scottish economy as far back as 2009, according to Scottish Enterprise.
Last year, Scotland’s national strategic framework for mountain biking – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – estimated that mountain bike visitor spend is worth £149million a year to the Scottish economy.