Sheffield Ski Village site: Plans for world-first 'Gravity Park' attraction uncertain due to clean-up costs and transport links

A new “first in the world” Gravity Park with sledging and zip wires could be created at the former Sheffield Ski Village.

Extreme Leisure were due to spend £25 million redeveloping the Parkwood site after being signed up in 2017 but Sheffield Council terminated the agreement last August.

It said Extreme failed to meet any key milestones or progress designs despite being given extensions to timescales.

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Sheffield Ski Village site

The council is now considering Skyline Luge, an international operator who develops and operates outdoor leisure destinations across the world including New Zealand, Canada, South Korea and Singapore.

Skyline were a potential partner with Extreme and had negotiated to lease part of the site for a zip line and luge – a small one or two person sled where people travel feet first.

It developed detailed proposals over the past two years and, despite the termination of the agreement with Extreme, says it is committed to Parkwood and is interested in a land transaction.

“A regional leisure destination”

Tammy Whitaker, head of regeneration at Sheffield Council, says: “Skyline have prepared a high level proposal for a Gravity Park, developing their existing concept from experience of delivering other operations around the globe.

“The Gravity Park would be the first in the world and would create a regional leisure destination providing a family orientated experience.

“It would include a luge and zip wire alongside a range of other activities, providing access for all people of all abilities and interests.”

Skyline would carry all development and operational risk and the council would not be required to underwrite the commercial risk.

But there are complex and expensive problems with the site and the council would need to deal with these before any lease is completed.

It says several major constraints need to be overcome to give greater commercial certainty for the site to be redeveloped.

Problems getting to the former Ski Village

Access to Parkwood via all modes of transport is poor. Existing roads are through an industrial area and the Douglas Road railway bridge has both height and width restrictions so larger vehicles, including modern luxury coaches, can’t get through.

The report says: “Currently there is no easy access via public transport. This poor access and lack of sense of arrival currently makes development of the site commercially challenging. Access has always been identified as a major constraint.

“The key to any development of Parkwood is to improve the accessibility to the site for all modes of transport and more sustainable modes of transport that do not have adverse environmental impacts, as well as to reduce energy consumption.

“The current site access is poor and could not support a leisure development without significant investment.

“The cost of providing a new road has always been a major burden. One road option crossing the Viridor site was proposed by Extreme but the cost is excess of £6m.”

The council says there needs to be a transport and traffic assessment to undertake a comprehensive review of all the options available to reach the site.

The assessment will assume visitor numbers and trips generated and look at access from Cookswood Road and Shirecliffe Road, links through to the city centre, active travel and public transport routes.

This “substantial piece of work” will cost between £80,000 and £150,000 but is essential to bring redevelopment of the site forward.

Clearing the site will be difficult and expensive

The original Ski Village opened in 1988 but was destroyed by fire in 2012 and has suffered repeated arson attacks. It attracts fly tipping, anti social behaviour and has been used as a camp by New Age travellers.

The 51-acre site is derelict, overgrown and substantial work is needed to make it suitable for development.

The council owns the freehold of the land and says the site is in a poor condition, overgrown, with redundant remains from the former ski slope and facilities.

Old Ski Village infrastructure needs removing including:-

- Remains of the old ski matting and track

- Steel skeletons of the banking on the slope

- Ski lift and lighting columns

- Cable runs

- Remains and foundations of the old buildings

- Remains of the ski jump bag

- Historic water and electric supplies need to be disconnected, drains need to be capped and it will cost at least £500,000 to remove invasive, resilient and fast growing Japanese knotweed.

What happens next?

The council has already allocated £470,000 on design and feasibility works for the access road.

Officers say the proposal from Skyline should be explored and are recommending that a further £200,000 is spent on site investigation and clearance work, plus transport, ecological and environmental assessments.

The report adds: “A funding package still needs to be identified to achieve the ambition of the full redevelopment of the Parkwood site.

“It is unlikely the council could fund such a scheme from its own resources however, carrying out the further investigative work will be helpful in assessing the viability and costs of future options for Parkwood. It will place the council in a better position to bid for external funding.

“There is still a very clear strategic and economic case to justify leisure development of the site. It is vitally important not only for the regeneration of the city but also by creating jobs and business rates.

“It also fits with the city’s aspirations to be an Outdoor City and promotes health and wellbeing for visitors and for local communities.”

The council’s Executive will discuss the report at a meeting on Wednesday, January 19.