When is a dangerous former cement quarry not a dangerous former cement quarry?
When it’s a beautiful nature park and tourist attraction full of crystal clear fresh water of course.
The blue lake off the A228 at Halling was the subject of controversy earlier this year when the police were called to deal with trespassers on the site, and warned swimmers of the dangers of entering the steep sided quarry.
Now plans are afoot to transform it into “Kent’s premier fishing and water sports attraction”, with Cllr Andrew Mackness – one of the directors in the project – dubbing it a “jewel in the crown” for Medway.
A Facebook site for the newly-dubbed St Andrews Lakes says the site is “nestled in a unique location in the North Downs”, adding: “Situated between the River Medway and Pilgrims Way, in Halling, St Andrews Lakes are ideally situated two miles from Jct 2 of the M2 and four miles from Jct 4 of the M20.”
And it adds: “Set within 122 acres of parklands, St Andrews Lakes boasts a 70-acre lake of natural, crystal clear, fresh water and 3km with its source in the Chilterns.”
Cllr Mackness told the Messenger the attraction would be a nature park, as well as providing water sports and fishing facilities, adding: “In the longer term we’re looking into glamping. It will be a park without a swimming pool.
“There will be controlled access – it’s private so from a safety perspective we will be maintaining that.”
“I’m very excited,” he added. “I think it’s a real jewel in the crown for Medway.”
“It’s a beautiful lake. It’s fresh water that comes from the Chilterns – it takes three or four months to filter through the water table.”
Although he said his suggestion to bottle ‘Halling Water’ was just mentioned ‘tongue in cheek’, he added: “Why not? I don’t know the first thing about bottling water but it’s beautiful water. The reason it’s blue is the chalk particles reflect the light.”
Cllr Mackness also denied there was any conflict between his business interests and his role on the council as River ward councillor and a member of the cabinet.
“There’s none whatsoever,” he said. “I’m a businessman. I operate as a businessman as well as volunteering with the council.
“We’re very clear in terms of ownership. We all have our private interests, and as one of the directors I’m very pleased to bring this forward.
“It will bring employment to say the least.
“In the early days it will be about 10 people but as it grows there could be employment for up to 40 people.”
According the Facebook site, phase one of the project is expected to be complete next spring and will focus on providing a home for day and night time fishing in “a secluded peaceful area of the lake”.
Phase two will see the opening of wooden lodges and camping facilities.
Further details are due to be provided at a later date.