Major resort on outskirts of Chesterfield reveals opening date and plans for zero-carbon tourist transport network


PEAK is a major development on 300 acres of reclaimed open land on the Birchall Estate near Unstone. Once completed, the site could accommodate up to 2,000 hotel rooms and 250 lodges, creating approximately 1,300 jobs. An indoor activity centre, state-of-the-art wellness center and transport hub, offering connections throughout the Peak District, are also planned.

Rupert Carr, director of Birchall Properties – owner of the site – revealed that the first phase of the development will be completed in 2025.

This part of the scheme, costing around £120m, will see the Gateway to PEAK created – incorporating the PEAK Express transport hub and around 200 hotel rooms.

A new roundabout and access road to the site, just off the A61 ring road, has already been built. Credit: Chesterfield Borough Council

It will also incorporate Wellness @PEAK – a health and wellness park consisting of an international standard clinic, a spa hotel, specialist accommodation and therapeutic gardens. This part of the site will include space for the research and development of preventive and reactive therapies.

The center will focus on mobility, rehabilitation, cosmetics and nutrition, as well as providing a range of facilities for individual programs – mimicking similar projects across Europe.

Extensive landscaping and reseeding will also take place, creating nature trails on site, as well as experiential and sensory gardens. The first phase also includes a multidisciplinary cycling school with trails connected to 1,000 miles of public rights of way, and car and coach parking with electric vehicle charging stations.

A pioneering two-week trial with stakeholders is currently underway, led by Gateway at PEAK, with the ambition to create a zero-carbon transport system to access the Peak District National Park.

The first part of the station should open in 2025.

Electric and hydrogen vehicles are being tested together as the project aims to explore alternatives to fossil fuels and gather feedback on customer experience.

The trial route connects eight key locations and attractions, including Chesterfield Station, Chatsworth House and the Gateway at PEAK development – which will serve as the hub for PEAK Express when it opens in 2025.

The Peak District currently sees over 13 million visitors a year, 83% of whom arrive at the National Park by car. The developers hope to create an integrated system through which customers can explore all that the Peak District has to offer, without relying on their own vehicles.

The proposals will allow visitors to use the zero-carbon transport network to reach the PEAK site from Derbyshire stations and towns, as well as offering park and ride facilities. Whichever way guests arrive, they’ll be able to hire all the gear they might need, then be transported to a range of cultural and outdoor attractions across the Peak District – and have their gear brought in, too.

The 300-acre site was purchased by Rupert Carr nearly 35 years ago. Credit: Chesterfield Borough Council

Mr Carr said the intention was not to create a gated site, but a hub for tourism and transport, where people are encouraged to use the eco-friendly transport links and venture into the Peak District.

The route is designed so that there are no more than 20 minutes between each stop – inspired by the gondolas found at international ski resorts. The fleet will consist of around six buses when the first phase is complete – and more vehicles will be introduced as the development continues to grow.

Once fully operational, PEAK Express aims to remove 500,000 tourist trips from the national park, reduce CO2 emissions by 3.6 million kg per year and present a sustainable growth model for the visitor economy. The long-term ambition is to see multiple hubs located around the Peak District.

John Milligan is the CEO of Milligan, the developers of the PEAK gateway. He said: “The PEAK Resort site has been reclaimed from the open, re-seeded and we are investing in its future.

Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, with Rupert Carr, the man behind PEAK.

“PEAK’s proposal is inspired by the internationally successful ski resort model. It offers a mixed range of hospitality, accommodation, retail, wellness and education facilities, all served by a zero-carbon mobility service linked to 1,600 miles of trails and attractions world class in the Peak District National Park.

“Milligan has been developing iconic destinations for over 20 years. Our skills are in arranging the right mix of uses that will serve the community and visitors in a sustainable way, providing long-term value. This trial is part of the zero carbon development journey and marks an important milestone for Gateway and the National Park.

Andrew McCloy, Chairman of Peak District National Park Authoritysaid the project would provide sustainable transportation through the park and ensure the benefits of tourism are shared across the region.

“We are delighted to be part of this groundbreaking trial. Protecting the national park for future generations and developing more sustainable ways for people to visit are among our priorities.

“The PEAK Gateway site outside the national park is an excellent location for a transportation hub. The PEAK Express service is a commitment to net zero and will connect more National Park attractions without the need for a car, making them more accessible and extending the economic benefits of tourism.

Chesterfield Borough Council collaborated on the trial, and its leader – councilor Tricia Gilby – said the zero-carbon transport network would ensure Chesterfield is better connected to the rest of the Peak District.

An artist’s impression of what Health and Wellness could look like at PEAK.

“The value of this partnership is clearly demonstrated when considering important issues like climate change, which require local commitment and collective action if we are to make a real difference. We are delighted to be a key partner in this trial.

“Chesterfield has excellent road and rail links, making it the perfect base to stay and explore the Peak District from – but we are committed to a net zero future and this trial is an exciting step forward in how we think of our regional transport links. .

“Trial PEAK Express at PEAK Resort will make it even easier – and cleaner – for visitors to experience the UK’s first National Park from nearby destinations, such as Chesterfield.”

Andrew Lavery, CEO of the Chatsworth House Trustalso lent his support to the project – and said it would help promote more sustainable tourism.

“Derbyshire and the Peak District are world-class destinations for domestic and international tourists, and we are delighted to be part of this trial. Working with partners, we are committed to reducing car journeys and supporting and promoting a more sustainable way to get to and from the Peak District. There is also a wonderful connection with hydrogen technology and Chatsworth – Henry Cavendish discovered hydrogen in 1766 and so this company is very interesting.

Fuel and hydrogen refueling stations for the trial are provided by the world’s largest hydrogen producer, Aerial products. Electric and hydrogen buses will be provided by Toyotawhere data will be collected on the suitability of each technology for different terrains and refueling needs.

Jon Hunt, Head of Alternative Fuels at Toyota GB, said: “There is no simple solution to zero carbon mobility. That’s why this trial gives us an exciting opportunity to try out both electric and hydrogen vehicles, evaluating which works best for different types of journeys through the fleet. We will also look for optimal ways to provide refueling and excellent levels of customer service on board vehicles. »

The trial has been running since September 5 and will end on September 16. The results will be published in early November.


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