One of the country’s biggest inland marinas could be built on the outskirts of Woodhall Spa, the News can exclusively reveal.
The 300-berth development would involve constructing a new canal to link the proposed site at Kirkstead with the River Witham.
The plan could also feature up to 250 new homes being built overlooking the marina along with a cafe/restaurant, office accommodation and boatyard facilities.
The development would be built on land owned by the Nelstrop family who say they want to create ‘a lasting legacy’ for the village.
The scheme is still in the very early stages but it is thought it could take up to 25 years from start to finish.
It would be a multi-million pound investment. Estimates suggest the cost of installing lock gates to control entry and exit from the marina to the Witham would cost more than £1m.
The development would create a significant number of new jobs - as well as adding to Woodhall Spa’s reputation as one of the county’s main tourist destinations.
The entire project would depend on securing planning permission from East Lindsey District Council and backing from other important bodies - not least British Waterways and English Heritage as the site borders the historic Kirkstead Abbey and St Leonard’s Church.
‘Green links’ would be set up between the site and Woodhall Spa and a stretch of the riverbank would also be opened up.
The Nelstrop family stress they are also keen to work with - and take on suggestions - from the local community.
Already, British Waterways and English Heritage have expressed initial support - as have members of Woodhall Spa Parish Council.
The project is being led by Globe Limited, a respected firm of planning consultants who have been working behind the scenes with the Nelstrop family for the last two years.
Company spokesman Andy Booth said: “I want to stress that at the moment, this is only a vision the Nelstrop family have.
“However, they want to create a lasting legacy for Woodhall Spa.
“They live and work within Woodhall Spa and they want to work with the local community to transform their vision into something very special.
“We are talking about a quality development. It would be bespoke for Woodhall Spa and it would compliment Woodhall Spa.
“It would not be in competition with Woodhall Spa. There might be a cafe/restaurant but there are no plans for a pub, or for a hotel or major retail outlets.
“People using the marina would obviously use businesses already based in Woodhall Spa.”
Mr Booth stressed any firm proposals would comply with recommendations in Woodhall Spa’s Neighbourhood Plan and the ELDC’s Core Planning Strategy.
Mr Booth accepted there were considerable costs involved in constructing the canal - and digging out the actual basin that will accommodate the 300 yachts.
He admitted one of the keys to financing the project was securing approval for the new homes.
It is understood exploratory talks have already taken place with ELDC about the likelihood of gaining planning permission.
Mr Booth added: “We are very aware of how sensitive new homes are in a place like Woodhall Spa.
“However, we think siting the new homes at the marina would do away with the need for ‘infill’ developments within the village.”
Mr Booth said constructing the marina on the banks of the Witham was initially considered but was discounted because of flood risk issues.
He admitted a small fraction of the construction costs could be ‘clawed back’ by extracting sand and gravel from the site but stressed that was not the reason for the development plan.
Globe Limited have produced a document called ‘Woodhall Spa Marina. A Vision.’
It states: “This unique and evolving project aims to create a quality inland marina together with a range of complementary and ancillary uses for the benefit of the users of the marina, the local population and visiting tourists.”
“The vision and aspiration is to prove a lasting legacy for both the village and the landowner’s family.
“It is envisaged that this project would not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the area for residents and visitors but also strengthen the local economy.
“The marina will create a prestigious southern gateway to Woodhall Spa and will provide/create a unique visitor attraction.
“The intention is that the proposed development does not detract from the existing character, charm and ambience of Woodhall Spa but will build upon it and provide additional support to existing village services.”
Developers say they are responding to a strategic survey by British Waterways which identified a deficiency in facilities within the county and an ‘under-use’ of the River Witham which is navigable from Boston to beyond Lincoln.
There are longer-term plans to link the river with the rest of the rest of the country.
Talks with various bodies will continue but it is thought it could be a couple of years before the start of the planning permission process.