Published: 08:35, 15 October 2021
| Updated: 12:35, 18 October 2021
Plans for a natural well-being centre have been given the go ahead following glowing recommendations from councillors.
The owners of Buckland Lake Reserve in Cliffe, have now been given permission to transform their wildlife haven with floating glamping cabins, a gym, therapy classes and a cafe selling ethically grown food.
Businessman Doug Hilton has spent 20 years building up the area and now wants the outdoor space to become a retreat for those suffering from long Covid.
At Medway Council planning committee meeting, Dave Harris, head of planning, gave Medway councillors a glowing review of the area after his own visit to the site.
He said: "A lot of people on social media have been saying go to the cafe, go and visit the lakes.
"So, some months ago I went along to the facility to have a look for myself.
"I stopped for lunch there and had a lovely walk all around the lake.
"It didn't seem that busy, although there were a lot of people.
"People were enjoying being outside with nature.
"It is clearly well used and fits in with the rural tourism of our wonderful area."
Cllr Gary Etheridge (Con) agreed with the head of planning.
He said: "Thank you for describing this wonderful place which happens to be within my ward.
"I think Dave Harris has done it some form of justice and all of you should go and visit it as soon as possible, I recommend the breakfast as well!"
Doug, 69, believes outdoor space and the work being carried out at Buckland Lake Reserve will benefit the people of Medway.
Although he and his wife Sue recently moved to Wales to be nearer their family, Doug still calls the shots in the business, having gradually built it up over the years.
Plans for the outdoor space, featuring one large and two smaller lakes, includes stopping fishing, which will allow for eight floating glamping cabins and more space for outdoor activities, an extension for the on-site cafe and the conversion of shipping containers into arts and crafts areas that are also suitable for education sessions.
Doug said: "We are now marketing Buckland Lake Reserve as Eternal Lake.
"The 50ft deep lake will be used for water sports including paddle boarding and diving.
"This is because we are doing a lot that involves the environment around us and getting the people of Medway outdoors.
"The plan for our glamping cabins isn't just for tourists but also for family respite, we are working closely with the children's cancer charity, Beads of Courage.
"Now that we are stopping the fishing we can focus more on outside therapy such as yoga.
"We're really happy that the planning permission has be approved and we're really happy with how the community has responded.
"There are so many people suffering from long Covid and by setting up this facility and helping people get outside and working with nature after the two years of lockdown is really important.
"We're trying to achieve everything for everyone."
Doug's wellness in nature ethos is aimed at families, school children, students, cyclists, and walkers.
The shipping containers on the site will not only be converted for educational needs but also into a gym and function room.
Doug said: "Water is what we have here and water is so essential for relaxation in nature.
"We don't at the moment have any intention to build more than this number of glamping cabins because to obtain the full benefits of wellness in nature, there has to be an element of isolation between the cabins."
Two of the pods have already been installed and have full wheelchair access.
The remaining eight will have waste and water storage, solar power and include a kitchenette and shower facilities.
They cost about £120 a night, with discounts for longer stays, and sleep up to four.
Meanwhile, a plan to use the lake as the first inland underwater burial site in the world have been put on hold because of the global pandemic.
Permission has already been secured to create what is described as a "unique opportunity" for the ashes of loved ones to be built into statues which will sit on the lake bed and help create an artificial reef.
The eco-friendly project would help CO2-consuming weeds grow and help the fish to find shelter in the water.
Doug said they have a boat, currently undergoing repairs, to take loved ones on to the lake and hope it will be up and running within four months.
He finished: "Covid messed up every application we made and turned our plans upside down, but people desperately need this outdoor space and the activities we will offer."