A £100million 'eco therapy' retreat offering affordable holiday accommodation in tree lodges and geodesic domes is to be created at former coalfields in East Ayrshire.

Ambitious plans have been unveiled by Barony UK Ltd, for the former colliery near Auchinleck in East Ayrshire.

National Pride, which specialises in sustainable developments, is part of the conglomerate that acquired the 108.8-acre site from Hargreaves Land.

The Herald:

The Eco-Therapy Wellness Centre will comprise of 324 accommodation units with 500 beds in a mixture of tree lodges and domes. There will be on-site spa and gym facitilities and activities aimed at calming the mind including arts and crafts. 

It is hoped the retreat will also become a healthy dining destination.

National Pride say the impact of the pandemic has led to a greater appreciation of the healing powers of nature. They anticipate the centre will be well used by those recovering from illnesses such as cancer or preparing for surgery.

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A proportion of the profits will be reinvested back into community wellbeing projects and support NHS student training.

There are already plans to replicate the project elsewhere in Scotland. National Pride has purchased the 930-acre St Ninians and Loch Fitty site in Fife and plans to create a second wellness park there.

"It is an amazing project, it is unique to Scotland and we are absolutely delighted to make it happen," said Irene Bisset, Chairwoman of National Pride.

"When we show the images, the first thing people tend to say is, that it looks like a Centre Parcs.

"Maybe it does because it's holiday type accommodation, however it's not about going somewhere and then needing another holiday afterwards. It's about relaxing and slowing down, it's about rest and rehab.

"We started our vision before Covid. We know there was a need for this before the pandemic but there is even more of a need for it now. It will be ideal for those who need to get fit for cancer operations or recuperate after surgery.

"We haven't worked out the details yet but the accommodation will be affordable and day visitors will also be welcome on the site.

"It is about tourism but it's also about health and wellness. 

"It's about 40 minutes drive from Glasgow but transport and accessibility is a huge part of the project and allowing people to get there using sustainable travel.

The Herald:

"It's also about enconomic regeneration and jobs and giving the area hope. We are looking to create around 350 jobs."

All that remains of the Barony Colliery is the Barony A-Frame, a landmark that can be seen for miles.

Although the colliery closed in 1989, in 1990 the winding engine houses, generating station and water-treatment works, as well as the A-Frame were given B-listed building status.

The Barony A-Frame Trust will be given financial support to regenerate the memorial garden dedicated to the miners who lost their lives in the coal mine from 1908-1969.

Four men were killed when a mining shaft collapsed and their bodies were never recovered.

"We realise that it is a grave and there will be full respect to that," said Mrs Bisset.

"There is a memorial there and of course there is the A-Frame which is the old winding gear and that's a fantastic momument. We are not acquiring that, it is owned and managed by the Barony A-Frame Trust but we will work with them. 

The Herald:

The Barony site descends into the Lugar Water Valley, forming a micro-climate where guests will benefit from "oxygen-rich clean and pollutant free air".

Education and training opportunities, focussed on vulnerable adults, will be a priority and there will be opportunities for schools to participate in outdoor learning.

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The Herald:

There will be a focus on sustainable construction materials with geo-thermal energy sourced from the disused mine for use by the community, including the nearby hospital.

A Proposal of Application Notice, noting intent to submit a planning application has been submitted to East Ayrshire Council.

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If plans are approved, construction could start in late 2022 with completion by the end of 2024.

The Herald:

National Pride pledged to involved the community in the plans, which are being backed financially by Falcon International Financial Services.

Mrs Bisset said: "There is already Dumfries House next door which is a fantastic development, providing wellness but they also do a lot of education and training in the community and we see ourselves as being totally complimentary to what they are already doing."