Surf’s up in Birmingham as green light given for £25m wave park

Plans to build the UK’s most landlocked surf park near Birmingham have taken a major step forward after officials voted unanimously in favour of the project.

Emerge Surf Birmingham was originally unveiled in 2019 and has now received the backing of North Warwickshire Borough Council’s Planning and Development Board. All 15 voting members minded to support the planning application for the 15-acre site, approximately seven miles to the east of Birmingham’s city centre at Coleshill.

The £25 million wave park will feature a 5.4-acre surf lagoon, powered by Wavegarden’s Cove technology, an outdoor heated swimming pool, hub building and a perimeter track for Onewheel electric skateboards. It is expected to create 100 full-time equivalent jobs, attract around 250,000 visitors a year and deliver an annual economic boost of between £18 million – £21 million to the region.

Visitors to the park will also be able to enjoy a surf school, surf shop, café and restaurant, multi-purpose fitness studio, physio and massage room and children’s play area.

This latest milestone will be a welcome relief to landlocked Midlands-based surfers who currently travel more than 100 miles for the closest surfable ocean waves. The park’s surf school will also enable visitors to try the sport for the first time in a controlled environment, with Wavegarden’s Cove technology allowing waves to be tailored to different ability levels.

Steve Price, founder and CEO of Emerge Surf, said:

“Our aim with Emerge Surf is to bring a slice of the ocean to Birmingham, creating a haven for landlocked surfers and those wanting to try the sport for the first time. I’m thrilled to see such resounding backing from North Warwickshire Borough Council, recognising our vision and being minded to support the project.

“We’re excited to enter the next phase in our plan to deliver a wave park that will be a huge asset to the region and its already renowned visitor economy. It will provide a world-class experience for surfers of all levels, delivering a positive social impact while supporting mental and physical wellbeing. This is alongside creating new jobs, boosting tourism and elevating the region’s reputation as a sport and leisure destination.

“Our focus now is on finalising our funding structure, progressing on-site groundworks, which we expect to start before the end of this year and working collaboratively with all partners as we prepare to open to the public in early 2022.”

Councillor David Wright, leader of North Warwickshire Borough Council, said:

“North Warwickshire Borough Council is pleased to welcome this development and I thank our Councillors on the Planning and Development Board for their decision. We are all keen to see our economy bounce back from the COVID-19 outbreak and this is a major boost for our economy, particularly the very hard-pressed leisure and tourist sector. This will also boost physical activity levels in our area and there is an extensive community programme being worked up to include communities and schools.

“We are looking forward to this project progressing and for North Warwickshire to become famous not just as a centre for cycling and golf, but also for surfing.”

Emerge Surf Birmingham will be working in partnership with national governing body Surfing England to deliver certificated surfing tuition and with registered charity Surf Life Saving Great Britain on a wide range of courses for water safety.

The park is also partnering with The Wave Project to deliver therapy through surfing to local children suffering with mental health issues.

World Surf League Big Wave World Champion Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker is an ambassador for Emerge Surf, alongside top UK professional surfers Peony Knight and Luke Dillon. Olympic gold medallist Tessa Sanderson CBE is the park’s non-surfing ambassador.

Ben Powis, commercial and operations director at Surfing England, said:

“Bringing a world class wave to Birmingham will be a huge milestone in the growth and development of English Surfing and will undoubtedly open up our sport to a whole new generation of surfers.

“Emerge Surf has assembled a talented crew with genuine commitment to developing a facility that not only provides a high performance training and surfing environment, but also capitalises on the health and wellbeing benefits of surfing to deliver far reaching social impact.”

Fernando Odriozola, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Wavegarden, said:

“Our company is founded on the aspiration to share the exhilarating feeling of riding great waves with everyone, regardless of their location. Surfing is an incredibly rewarding and beneficial sport for people of all ages and abilities and we are absolutely delighted that Birmingham, the UK’s second city, will soon give people access to our waves and the Wavegarden experience.

“We are very grateful for the support of the excellent team at Emerge Surf Birmingham, the North Warwickshire Borough Council’s Planning and Development Board and the broader public who share our vision.”

Dates referenced for the commencement of ground works and public opening are subject to the proposed development being referred to the Secretary of State.

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