Zero Carbon Car Free Access to the Peak District for Tourists.
Words: Paul Chapman
Image: Birchall Properties
On a sunny morning in mid-September I clipped into my pedals and enjoyed a peaceful cycle across town, using dedicated cycle infrastructure from Queen Mary’s Road right out to the meeting point at the A61 interchange roundabout to the proposed Gateway @Peak.
I was here to take part in ‘Journey to Net Zero’ an initiative trialing two buses, one Hydrogen powered and one EV, a joint initiative between Peak Gateway Properties, Toyota, Air Products, Caetano, City Taxis and Chesterfield Borough Council, so it only seemed right that I cycle there!
We were met at the A61 interchange roundabout, the consented access to the development. Much fun was had reversing out from a narrow trail after taking a wrong turn, but it got us all smiling and was a great ice breaker… easy for me though as I was the only one able to turn around!
The route through the estate site is really impressive, it opens out into a wide natural bowl, surrounded by greenery in every direction and very quiet, I’d never realised how the site was positioned over the hill to the east of the A61 so any traffic noise is lost entirely. I locked my bike up and walked the last few hundred metres to the building that was once the club house of Birchall Golf Course.
The site is owned by Birchall Properties and over the past years they have had to adapt and change as the business environment has struggled to work its way through BREXIT, COVID and the present cost of living crisis. A ‘challenge’ is an understatement.
Today things are looking good, exciting times ahead with new partners, Milligan, on board. Milligan are mixed use developers, specialists in developing iconic destinations and have for over 20 years, been using their skills to curate the right mix of uses for new destinations. Long term, this approach will serve the community and visitors in a sustainable way and this trial marks an important milestone for Gateway and the Peak District National Park.
Over the past 10 years areas of the reclaimed opencast Estate have been part of a nature recovery programme and, as a result, over 20 birds of interest migrate or reside here today. Other areas of the estate have been maintained to welcome the approved development with Biodiversity Net Gain at its heart. The Estate has outline planning permission for 2,000 hotel rooms, 250 lodges, and a range of leisure, education, and entertainment facilities many based around outdoor activity. A number of reserved matters approvals have now been granted on the outline consent.
With the Gateway @Peak being so well connected to national road, rail and bus infrastructure it is intended to operate the PEAK Express as a car free way for tourists to experience the national park and surrounding areas.
Gateway @Peak will provide accommodation, parking (2800 spaces) and services for onward travel into the Peak District for walkers and cyclists using the PEAK Express tourist service. This will help mitigate the environmental impact of these journeys and help reduce traffic congestion.
Melanie Taylor, Director of Leasing and Commerce at Milligan, said; “Our vision is to create a sustainable hub for like-minded businesses and a basecamp for the exploration of the Peak District. This will be a world-class example of a sustainable tourism project.
“A gateway could provide information for visitors to book single or multi-day itineraries, explore the area using more sustainable, less polluting modes of transport and buy or hire outdoor activity equipment to try out new activities. The information available about the wider Park’s attractions will help spread the economic benefit of visitors beyond the area’s traditional ‘honeypots’.”
Back to the buses. Hydrogen is a zero emissions fuel and I learnt that Air Products use green energy in its production to create a clean fuel. Once we have locally produced hydrogen it will be a game changer.
I took a trip out to Hassop Station on both the EV and Hydrogen powered vehicles and couldn’t tell the difference, again I was surprised by how quickly we reached our destination using a carefully chosen route over to The Robin Hood and down through Baslow to Hassop.
With regards to timescales, facilitation works and ground investigations are underway and The Gateway @PEAK is presently scheduled to open for Autumn 2025 bringing with it up to 1,000 job opportunities and a total change in the way visitors can access the Peak District.
I can see this working. We take trips to the Peak District regularly and the ability to create rides, walks and days out around the routes taken from Gateway @Peak is an interesting one. I look forward to buying my first ticket.
For more info please see: