Bewl Water Country Park has been sold in a multi-million pound deal which represents a significant development in the new owner’s burgeoning leisure portfolio.
The Markerstudy Group exchanged contracts on the sale last Friday with West Ham United owner David Sullivan’s Kent Attractions company.
The deal involving the 1,000-acre site – which includes the stunning 770-acre reservoir – is expected to be completed with Kent Attractions early next year.
Markerstudy’s leisure division is considering staging a Christmas event at the site in 2016 after a successful inaugural festival event at Salomons Estate in late 2014. The company has funded the £100,000 Santa Express Christmas train in the town centre.
More than 19,000 tickets were sold for the festive event and it is thought the new venue will offer greater scope to enhance the visitor experience.
The Times understands the new owners are keen to ‘work closely’ with the sailing club at Bewl to ‘improve the whole experience’.
And there is likely to be a ‘heavy’ emphasis on and investment in educational opportunities for young people associated with the group’s ‘Ensure Kids’ community project which teaches youngsters road safety.
Louise Clark, Managing Director of Markerstudy Leisure, described the acquisition as ‘hugely exciting’ and adds to the portfolio of Salomons Estate, One Warwick Park Hotel (formerly The Brew House Hotel), Next Dimension Gymnastics Academy, ‘So’ magazines, Times of Tunbridge Wells and Zenith Aviation.
She said: “We are keen to maximise the potential of the beautiful 1,000-acre site, and ensure it maintains its position as one of the most idyllic and versatile ‘go-to’ locations.
“It is unique; the largest stretch of open water in South East England, attracting families and friends to enjoy time together and participate in a host of exhilarating recreational activities, on land and on water.”
She added: “We will have exciting plans for the site and will work on them over the next few months.
“We will be speaking to existing users, local residents and potential users to ensure that Bewl Water reaches its amazing potential.
“We will be exploring all possible activities and attractions at the site, including Christmas events.”
Markerstudy already backs numerous local organisations including the £5m Investment Fund for local business, Tunbridge Wells Football Club, Rusthall Boxing Club and the Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre.
The company has also backed local cricket and rugby clubs.
With over 4,500 staff nationwide and more than 1,000 based in Tunbridge Wells, the purchase is another step in the group’s strategy to create a substantial leisure division and ‘an enduring legacy in Kent’. Contracts were exchanged on September 11, with completion agreed for January 6 2016.
With substantial investment and improvement plans underway, the group says it will be working closely with visitors, clubs, residents and the council to ensure that ‘Bewl Water prospers and continues to play a key role in
boosting the economy in Kent.’ The group, which celebrates 15 years of trading in May next year, launched its coat of arms, vision, and values to staff at a conference in June this year.
The Markerstudy Group has been voted number 11 in the Sunday Times 100 best companies to work for in both 2014 and 2015.