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Zipwires and racetracks for mountain bike enthusiasts are some of the projects being planned to transform one of Wales’ leading retail parks into a new leisure and tourism attraction.
As revealed earlier this month Festival Park Outlet Shopping and Leisure Park in Ebbw Vale has been acquired by London-based investor GMW Capital.
The retail park, which generates an annual income of £1m a year, extends to nearly 100,000 sq ft, with a further 80 acres of parkland.
Its new owners are in the process of finalising a master plan for the site, with the aim of it becoming a major activities and tourism attraction – which in turn will help support the park’s retail offer.
GMW Capital has appointed Metis Real Estate to asset management he scheme, which was previously part of a portfolio of property assets, which also included those in Italy.
Having consulted with Blaenau Gwent Council the Welsh Government, existing retailers tenants and other stakeholders, the master plan will be published shortly for public consultation.
Its aim will be to transform the park element of the scheme, were the National Garden Festival of Wales has held in 1992, while also making the existing retail offer a more pleasurable experience for shoppers.
The new attractions will bring new visitors from across the region and beyond.
They could include:
Zipwires Cycle paths. A racetrack offer for mountain bike enthusiasts. Running courses for events such as park runs Boosting fishing activities by working with site’s fishing club and building on other existing attractions like the park’s owl sanctuary. Bringing back some of the garden festival features with new viewing and decking areas.
While maintain the existing retail park, it is expected to be remodelled to create more light and lines of sight, so rather than turning its back on the parkland, it faces the site’s natural assets.
Director and co-owner of Metis, Welshman Paul Jones: "The scheme has suffered from under investment for a number of years. While a lot of out-of-town centres and other shopping parks are in terminal decline, we have a great chance to reposition and transform it.
"We are currently working on a master plan with a range of partners, that will springboard the shopping centre and parklands into a major shopping destination and tourist attraction
"We are delighted that many of our current retailers have recommitted to the scheme in recent months and we are currently in talks with some major retailers and attractions that will support our strategy of re-energising the centre and parklands.
On new leisure facilities and operators, Mr Jones said: "We are talking to a wide range of attraction and leisure operators which could see things like cycle paths, zipwires and BMX bike racetrack circuits across the parkland.
"There is so much we can also do around health and fitness, like park runs, as well as in education working with schools across the region and beyond
"If retail is to survive then it needs to provide far more than just retailing.
"If you look back to what Festival Park was more than a decade ago, there were people visiting not just from Blaenau Gwent but a much wider area So, if the park can bring in more people, then the retail will look after itself."
Mr Jones said that some new projects could be realised in the short term of up to six months, while others could take up to two years.
He also confirmed that one leisure project, working with Blaenau Gwent Council, could open as early as March or April.
On the retail park Mr Jones: "We are not going to knock down the scheme, but we want to open it up to the fantastic gardens by creating more light and lines of sight and making it a far more pleasant shopping experience."
"We will be reinstating some of the old garden festival features. We also also looking at new decking areas. We are very excited about the potential of the site as a major leisure and retail destination."