Building work will start within weeks on the first phase of the multi-million-pound redevelopment of a major west Cumbrian site.
After almost two decades in the planning, the project to transform the 1,050-acre former Royal Naval Armaments Depot site at Broughton Moor, known as Derwent Forest, is set to take a huge step forward.
Derwent Forest Development Consortium is working to realise businessman Nigel Catterson’s dream of creating an example of eco living and working on the site.
A development of 24 homes on the eastern edge is set to kickstart the project, by funding the start of clean-up works elsewhere on the land, which is littered with redundant buildings and remnants from previous opencast mining.
In the coming weeks workmen will start to build a road and install plumbing and energy supplies.
Outline permission was granted in 2015 for the homes, on nine acres near the site’s edge at South Terrace, Great Broughton.
Further plans have now been submitted seeking approval of the designs of the houses, with timber frames and large areas of glass.
Detailed plans for the remainder of the site are yet to be drawn up but ideas mooted by the consortium have included an eco-hotel and a festival site.
Renewable energy is expected to play a significant part in the development. The consortium is considering a solar park, biomass, geothermal energy and small-scale wind power, with an educational facility alongside.
Mr Catterson came up with the concept of Utropia in 1995 and in 2001 began looking at the possibility of developing it on the Derwent Forest site.
He got together with partners, including businessman Fred Story, to form Derwent Forest Development Consortium, which was selected by then landowners Allerdale council and Cumbria County Council in 2011 to be the developer for the site.
The area for the initial housing development has now been fenced off and work is under way to humanely trap newts living there and relocate them elsewhere on the site, in areas that are set to be left wild.
Once that has been completed, Story Contracting will be able to move onto the site.
The consortium originally marketed the housing site as self-build plots. Eight potential customers came forward, whom the consortium is still in talks with.
But Reiver Homes, part of Story Contracting, is seeking detailed permission for all 24 properties to give potential customers the choice. It is likely to build the first three or four homes, with the possibility of more depending on customers’ preferences.
Anyone wanting to take up the self-build offer would have to get their own planning permission.