Construction of the new £12m Stane Leisure Park in Stanway has been completed. The Churchmanor Estates Company plc, the developer, started work on the scheme in March 2017 bringing at least 300 jobs to the area.

Challenging from the outset

The original discussions for the leisure development began over 5 years ago in September 2013 by the developer and after a successful Appeal to the Secretary of State against the Council’s refusal of planning permission the leisure park was finally completed in August 2018. Located adjacent to the A12, Stane Leisure Park was designed to provide an attractive leisure environment with the restaurant units located along a boardwalk with extensive complementary landscaping, outdoor seating and a children’s play area.

Environmentally-friendly key to the strategy

The landscape proposals for Stane Park needed to reflect the character of the landscape to the west of Colchester, which is relatively heathy with a preponderance of oak, ash, hawthorn and birch tree species.

The Stane Park Leisure Quarter is not a typical out-of-town retail/restaurant outlet – it offers a high quality environment for eating and relaxing which is designed as a ‘pocket park’, with a pleasant ambience and space for children to play. The landscape design strategy had to deliver a highly legible, pedestrian-friendly and distinctive public realm, with zones of activity differentiated by striking paving patterns, sculptural planters, hedgerows and tree planting.

Designed for work and play

There is a generous pedestrian zone in front of the restaurants, separated from the car park by raised planters. This area allows people and families in particular to stroll along the ‘park’ whilst deciding which restaurant to visit. All restaurants have extensive external spaces for outdoor dining. At the heart of the scheme is a larger space or ‘pocket park’ with a central play feature for smaller children. Large deck seats holding pleached box-headed trees provide ample shaded seating for parents to sit and supervise children playing whilst enjoying a coffee and chatting.

The stone chosen at Stane

Choosing the paving materials was a key feature of the scheme which helped to delineate the various spaces. Sheils Flynn collaborated closely with the team at Hardscape and chose for the main paved areas a long-format white Kellen Sferio finish option, which details a very crisp and clean surface. This was further enlivened by lines of grey Kellen Lucida curled-finished stripes which break up the area and lead pedestrians along the length of the park.

The width of the stripes varied and created a ‘rippling line’ along the front of the planters. The Kellen Lucida curled-finish is deemed smoother than the Sferio and so catches the light in a different way. The restaurant areas were defined using curled Kellen Nero slabs with an edging of Sferio Nero. These are very bold and, given the colour and finish, the stains that are commonplace in the vicinity of restaurants have become relatively well-camouflaged. In the ‘pocket park’ the white Sferio is punctuated by vivid orange squares of Crystalpave which relate to the bright colours of the play area.

The raised planters and seating were also a strong feature of the design. They have separated the ‘park’ from the car park and provided elevated planting areas with multiple edges for seating or leaning on.

On the car park side the planters were made slightly higher so that they are visible to motorists, but on the park side the walls actually slope downwards to seating height and become wider.

There were also timber seats which provided a more comfortable option – some with back-rests and arm-rests for the infirm.

The planters were formed in solid stone sourced from Portugal with Hardscape providing 3D drawings of how they looked prior to manufacture.

The light grey Roriz granite was finished in a flame-textured finish with soft rolled edges and a dark polished shadow line to reflect the LED lighting at night.

Strong support and commendations

Priti Patel, MP for Stanway and Witham and a strong supporter of the development of Stane Leisure Park, said at the time of the official opening in September 2018: “Developers Churchmanor Estates deserve a great deal of credit for developing this site and for their perseverance in getting this development in place and I was pleased to help them secure planning permission. The new local jobs being delivered are welcome and we look forward to seeing all of the developments in this area complete.”

Stephen Clark on behalf of Churchmanor also commented: “We have taken great care over the design layout and landscaping within the scheme and we are pleased to be able to bring these much needed facilities to the residents of Stanway.”

Action Team member Jeremy Hagon added: “Future investment in infrastructure upgrades, including pedestrian crossings and road widening, will be a positive and much needed addition to the developing area.”

Client: Churchmanor Estates; Landscape Architects: Sheils Flynn; Contractors: Rose Builders Ltd; Engineers: Mott MacDonald; Paving materials supplier: Hardscape