North East Wales

Hill adventure sphereing go ahead in Whitford

Sphereing, also known as zorbing
Image caption Fun-seekers roll down the hill in the giant ball at Bryn Coch Farm, Whitford

An activity centre where thrill-seekers roll downhill in giant inflatable balls - known as sphereing, or zorbing - has been given the go-ahead.

Flintshire council officials had recommended refusing retrospective permission at Bryn Coch Farm, Whitford, near Holywell.

There was concern passing horses could be scared, but councillors granted temporary permission for 12 months.

Owner Richard Wotton said the business would help the local tourism industry.

Mr Wotton opened his business a year ago, without planning permission.

About 1,300 people visited the centre before the season ended in September.

On Wednesday, planning officials argued the sport could endanger riders by scaring horses on a nearby bridle path and have a detrimental impact on the surrounding countryside.

But members of Flintshire's planning committee rejected the recommendation and voted to allow the activity to continue for another year while officials monitor the effects on the area.

'Innovative attraction'

Local councillor Chris Dolphin submitted "strong objections" to the venture, claiming it was of "no benefit to the local or county economy".

But Flintshire tourism officials supported the application, saying it would be a "new and innovative attraction in the area."

Mr Wotton said the new season would start at the end of April and bookings were already on a par with last year.

The company behind the activity has now franchised 14 sites around the UK, but this is its first in north Wales.

Mr Wotton said: "There's absolutely no doubt that it gives a boost to the local economy.

"At least 30% of the people who came to visit us last year stayed over for the weekend and it meant extra business for local campsites, hotels, pubs and restaurants."

He said nine people will be employed at the Whitford centre this season and staff training begins next week.

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