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Plans for national equestrian centre

Britain could have a new national equestrian centre by 2008 as part of a £200m revamp of the Royal Showground at Stoneleigh, which would see the 250-acre site established as a year-round hub for all countryside matters.

Regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, which provided £750,000 sponsorship for this year’s Royal Show, is undergoing a feasibility study into the Open Countryside Initiative — a 10-year project aimed at promoting the countryside and farming and giving related businesses access to the latest IT and communication tools.

The ambitious plans unveiled by the owner of the National Agricultural Centre, the Royal Agricultural Society (RASE), include developing a high-tech countryside visitor attraction, a rural business park, a commercial centre showcasing farm produce, and further development of existing conference and exhibition facilities.

The centrepiece of these facilities will be a new all-weather outdoor arena and a smaller indoor school, both of which will be designed to be flexible enough to provide exhibition space for non-equestrian business such as vehicle launches.

RASE equine specialist, Karen Pearson, who is leading the study for the development of equestrian facilities says: “We intend that any new facilities should not just be restricted to the elite, and will be made available to anyone that wants them.

“The Pony Club has already expressed interest in bringing its national championships back to Stoneleigh and we are in talks with the riding clubs. As the main showground is surrounded by vast tracts of grassy and wooded land, we are also looking at the creation of off-road rides.”

The project depends on obtaining the necessary funding, which will be sourced from government and EC schemes aimed at encouraging rural redevelopment.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (17 July), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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