Loudoun Castle Project

Titanic Quarter developer in talks to join consortium behind £450m Ayrshire leisure and tourism complex

David Mace

David Mace

The developer behind Belfast’s iconic Titanic Quarter is in advanced talks to take a major role in an ambitious £450 million leisure, tourism and residential development planned for south west Scotland which will potentially create over 1,000 new jobs in the region.

Owners of the historic Loudoun Castle estate, site located in the heart of Ayrshire are hopeful that a commercial deal with Harcourt Developments can be concluded very soon.

If successful, the arrangement will mean that the developer becomes a key part of the consortium behind the proposed redevelopment of the site which housed the former Loudoun Castle theme park. Harcourt has indicated that, subject to a contract being put in place, the grant of a planning permission in principle would allow Loudoun Estate to become its next flagship project.

The Loudoun Woods consortium aims to transform the 576-acre Loudoun estate into a world-class tourism and leisure development, the first of its type in Scotland.

Loudoun Castle 2 HiResThe A-listed Loudoun Castle is proposed to be restored along with the designed landscape and gardens.  The current planning application also seeks permission for the Castle’s ultimate potential conversion to a new luxury hotel. The restored castle will become a central feature of the development.

The Loudoun Woods’ outline planning application also envisages luxury holiday lodges, camping and a range of indoor sports facilities, including a tropical swimming lagoon.

A new community consisting of approximately 1,000 energy-efficient homes will be a key component of the development. It will provide the necessary funding for the stabilisation and restoration of the castle.

The planning application for the Loudoun Woods Resort has been “called in” for determination by Scottish Ministers due to the potential national economic benefit.  The inquiry will begin in Kilmarnock on October 23.

David Mace 3The Loudoun Woods consortium is headed by international leisure and investment expert David Mace, who founded the Sea Life concept in the UK and has served as a director on the boards of several leading leisure companies.

He said: “Loudoun Castle will be an all-weather, world-class holiday destination, which will attract visitors from all over the UK, create major economic benefits for Ayrshire and become a core part of Scotland’s tourism offering.

“The fact that Harcourt is considering becoming part of the Loudoun Woods consortium and making a significant investment in Scotland, speaks volumes for the quality and international scope of what we are planning.

“We are looking forward to the planning inquiry and, given a positive decision by Scottish Ministers, we are aiming to begin works in the summer of 2018 on a project that will transform the economy of this part of Scotland.”

Harcourt Developments is the company behind the Titanic Quarter, one of the world’s largest waterfront urban regeneration projects on the site of the former Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, where the liner Titanic was built.

The development encompasses Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor attraction, The Titanic Studios (where Game of Thrones is filmed), the Northern Ireland Science Centre, The Titanic Exhibition Centre and the recently-opened Titanic Hotel in the former Harland and Wolff drawing office.

Harcourt Stanley Dock development in Liverpool has also been singled out by English Heritage and won a number of awards for its restoration of warehouse in the UNESCO World Heritage site to become the successful Titanic Hotel Liverpool.

DCIM100MEDIAPaul Manning of Harcourt said: “We are engaged in very positive discussions and hope to be able to conclude an agreement to join the Loudoun Woods consortium.  The site’s historic setting, great transport links and proximity to some of the world’s most famous golf courses, gives it massive potential to become one of the UK’s most successful tourism destinations.”

If Scottish Ministers grant permission for the development in principle, it is hoped that stabilisation work on the castle could begin as early as summer of 2018.

David Mace added: “Our vision is that Loudoun Woods becomes Scotland’s premier short-stay inclusive resort with the lodges and treehouses built sensitively amidst the forest landscape of the estate and around the indoor tropical water park.

“It will be a traffic-free environment with cycle and walking paths linking the accommodation to the water park, hotel and other leisure amenities.  The Loudoun Castle hotel will be the centrepiece of the development, allowing us to restore this historic castle to be enjoyed by future generations.”

Loudoun Woods consortium consists of Loudoun Estate and private investors, headed by David Mace.

£525m Loudoun Castle transformation plans rejected

Loudoun CastlePlans to transform the former family Loudoun Castle theme park into a £525 million holiday and leisure destination have been rejected by East Ayrshire Council, though the door has been left open for future approval.

Deemed to be ‘of national significance’ by council planners, phase one of the much-anticipated development on the outskirts of Galston was set to create a brand new Loudoun distillery, around 1,000 new energy efficient homes, a renovated and stabilised castle building and a plan for the conversion of the castle itself into a 4/5 star hotel.

Initial plans for the project were rejected by councillors in May 2016, after being called in by Scottish Government ministers in 2015, with elected officials saying they needed more information on the proposals.

A masterplan was then requested from developers Loudoun Woods Homes.

However councillors at last week’s planning meeting took the advice of council planners to reject the plan saying there was simply not enough information before them at present to justify giving the proposals the green light.

Objections surrounded concerns that developers would erect several hundred houses, stabilise the ancient castle, then do no more.

Planning boss Michael Keane said the overall conclusion was that they were not able to answer key fundamental questions that had been raised by the developers’ lack of detail.

“But if more information is given we would reconsider our recommendation for refusal,” he said.

“The door is still open,” said, “but they (the developers) must fill in the gaps.”

The development was set to create 100 new apprenticeship opportunities and 2500 jobs across construction and operations.

If plans had been approved, it was anticipated work would begin on site in 2019.

Regeneration specialist to lead £525m Loudoun Castle transformation

Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon

Entrepreneur and regeneration specialist Paul Dixon has been appointed to act as principal lead on the £525 million project to regenerate Loudoun Castle.

The Loudoun Castle Project aims to create an all-weather resort at the 610-acre site at Galston, East Ayrshire, featuring 450 luxury lodges, 12 glamping pitches, a lake and leisure development, indoor sports facilities and an indoor subtropical water park. Up to 2,500 new jobs could be created.

With over 40 years’ experience in economy boosting projects, Paul boasts an impressive CV.

The trained accountant founded Dixon Motors in 1973 – building it up to become the third largest motor retail group in the UK.

Since then the married father-of-three has held several senior positions on dozens of development projects – which have all brought lasting value to their local areas.

Paul said: “I am absolutely delighted to be coming on board with the Loudoun Castle Project. For me this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create something unique that captures the spirit of Loudoun and the culture of Scotland. I have been truly impressed by the plans for the site.

“This development has incredible potential and could bring real economic, cultural and social benefit to East Ayrshire and the wider Scottish economy.

“Added value is always at the heart of every project I have undertaken and I believe my experience will bring much to the development and subsequent legacy of Loudoun Castle.

“In the past 40 years I have been fortunate to have been involved in a number of major regeneration projects bringing back to life everything from redundant factory sites to brownfield sites.

“A number of the projects I have worked on have secured National Government or European Union Grants and this is a skill set I can bring to the table for the Loudoun Project.

“I would like to thank the East Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Government for guiding and supporting the Loudoun Castle Project through the planning process.”

Paul Dixon’s appointment comes as the Scottish Government commented publicly for the first time on the proposed development.

A spokeswoman at Holyrood said this week: “We are aware of the planning application at Loudoun Castle. In light of its scale and potential economic and cultural significance, the Scottish Government’s Planning and Architecture Division has been following progress of the application and facilitating discussions between East Ayrshire Council, as the planning authority, and the developer, with a view to encouraging an early determination of the scheme.”

Loudoun CastleShould planning permission be granted for phase one, the Loudoun Castle Project will create a world class holiday and leisure destination, a brand new Loudoun distillery, up to 1,025 new homes, a renovated and stabilised Castle building and will deliver a plan for the conversion of  Loudoun Castle itself into a 4/5 star hotel.

Phase two at Loudoun is also being prepared for planning and will include a tourism led luxury brands outlet village of some 340,000 square feet, a whisky visitor centre selling Loudoun whisky and several new quality hotels to provide for the many visitors expected to the area.

Phase one will employ 800 people from the local area in the hospitality and leisure sectors while another 1,700 new jobs will be created in the retail side of the completed development. Local universities and colleges have indicated that they will liaise with the senior management team to offer courses which can dovetail with the needs of this new and exciting development for Ayrshire.

The masterplan will see the 610-acre former family theme park transformed into an all-weather resort featuring 450 luxury lodges, 12 glamping pitches, and a lake and leisure development featuring indoor sports facilities and a subtropical water park.

Loudoun Castle itself will be stabilised with leading conservation specialists assessing what can be achieved for the future of the site. There will also be the creation of new communities comprising up to 1,025 new homes to enable the restoration of the Castle buildings.

Timescales are subject to planning but if successful, work would begin onsite in 2017 with an anticipated opening during 2019 and phased development beyond.

It is anticipated that around 1,000 jobs will be created in the construction process alone for a period of at least five years with an additional 2,500 long term jobs created through the leisure and retail offering.

Plans for the residential development will feature a mix of starter homes, bungalows and three, four and five-bedroom family homes.

David Mace, chairman of The Loudoun Castle Project, said: “The Loudoun Castle development will bring significant long term benefit to East Ayrshire and indeed Scotland through jobs, investment and infrastructure.

“We understand that there are several overseas investors looking to invest in Ayrshire and we believe that as a Scottish Government supported project, the Loudoun Castle Project can indeed be a cornerstone, foundation and great example of what can be done in, and for Ayrshire, with a realistic vision, a great design and project team, good solid investors and a desire to build a worthwhile legacy.

“Adding the expertise of Paul to the team of leading business professionals already working on the project only reinforces that legacy.

“From speaking to local individuals and community groups, we believe that it has long been an aspiration of the people of East Ayrshire to secure the future of Loudoun Castle. We are absolutely committed to turning this vision into reality and very much look forward to working with other local stakeholders to make this hugely important development a reality of delivering a world class resort with a stunning castle and a tourism focused luxury brands outlet village.”

£450m plans unveiled to regenerate Loudoun Castle

Loudoun Castle

Developers have submitted plans to turn a former family theme park into a £450m holiday and leisure destination.

The Loudoun Castle Project aims to create an all-weather resort at the 610-acre site at Galston, East Ayrshire, featuring 450 luxury lodges, 12 glamping pitches, a lake and leisure development, indoor sports facilities and an indoor subtropical water park. Up to 2,500 new jobs could be created.

The site will also feature a new distillery, while Loudoun Castle itself will be stabilised and leading conservation specialists will assess what can be done with the building.

It is anticipated that around 1000 jobs will be created in the construction process for a period of at least five years, with an additional 1500 long-term jobs created through the leisure and retail side of the plan.

Key partners in the Loudoun Castle Project include private investment group EIF, global programme management and construction consultancy Turner & Townsend, global planning consultants RPS and specialist castle and heritage consultant Francis Shaw.

David Mace, chairman of the Loudoun Castle Project, said: “A development of this size and scale will provide Scotland and Ayrshire with significant long-term economic benefits both in terms of jobs and tourism.

“The local community and Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley MSP Willie Coffey are delighted that we have assembled such a strong team of professionals that are committed to turning this vision into reality.

“Scottish tourism has had a great year given the international attention the country has received in 2014 through the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming Scotland.

“We are keen to maximise the legacy created, by adding a world-class all-weather leisure facility and a visitor attraction that has real stand out. We will clearly attract new visitors from home and abroad and positively impact Ayrshire, making the whole of Scotland proud.”

Nick Laister, senior director at RPS Planning & Development, which is submitting the planning application on behalf of The Loudoun Castle Project, said: “Since the site was allocated in the East Ayrshire Local Plan in 2010, it has been an aspiration of the Council to secure the future of Loudoun Castle as a major tourism destination.

“Having been involved with the planning of the site since the middle of the last decade, I am delighted to be submitting a planning application for a development that is going to realise that vision and have such a significant positive economic impact on the area.

“This proposal will create a unique, high quality resort in this dramatic location with the restoration of the Grade A listed Castle at its heart.

“We have spent the last 18 months consulting with the local community and refining the plans and we look forward to working with East Ayrshire Council and other local stakeholders to make this hugely important development a reality.”

There are also plans for a residential development featuring a mix of house styles including starter homes, bungalows and three, four and five-bedroom family homes.

Project bosses this week submitted a planning in principle application to East Ayrshire Council for the two-phased development.

If the local authority gives the go ahead, work would begin onsite in 2016. Developers expect the first phase to open in 2018.