Plans to turn Worcestershire's Cob House Fishery at Wichenford into a nationally acclaimed centre for disabled anglers has gathered pace after the concept received support from the Advantage West Midlands-backed Rural Development Programme for England.
Cob House, which has been established for more than 20 years, has tapped into a £240,000 Strategic Investment Grant to kick-start an ambitious project that will see it build a new cafe, tackle shop, teaching centre and disabled friendly toilets at its 45-acre site.
Work on the development started in January this year and, when completed in July, has the potential to create up to 17 additional jobs and bring business and tourism to the local community.
"This latest project is the culmination of a long-term vision we've had since buying the fish farm back in 2007," explained Helen Taylor, who runs the business with her husband Robert.
"We had noticed that other fisheries did not seem to be catering for the needs of young people and the disabled - this was something we knew we had to put right, in order to make fishing accessible for all."
She added: "There is nowhere in the UK that offers all of the facilities we propose on one site and we expect this unique selling point to help us sustain both the core fish farm and fisheries business and the services offered by the new building."
Cob House, which has eight coarse fishing pools and one trout pool, has invested nearly £750,000 in the new project that will include the angling academy, large cafe, play areas, teaching centre, petting corner and the wildflower meadow. It is expected these new facilities will lay the foundations for a wide selection of activities, ranging from archery and pond dipping to nature trails, fishing and educational visits.
It will also give the business the prestigious title of being the first fishery to offer a match pool with every one of the 30 pegs suitable for wheelchair access.
"The support of RDPE and Advantage West Midlands has made the whole project possible, as without the additional financial support we just wouldn't have been able to bring it to reality," Helen added. "It's a real win-win situation in that we are developing facilities that make fishing accessible to young people and the disabled, whilst helping us to diversify the business, create new jobs and offer local farms the opportunity to sell produce through our cafe."
Advantage West Midland's Richard Hillier believes the partnership is a perfect example of how RDPE can have a positive impact on land-based businesses looking to expand:
"It is anticipated that the investment will create a truly world class angling centre in the heart of Worcestershire, whilst opening up fishing to the young and disabled in the process. The Strategic Investment Grant will also ensure that the core fishery business benefits from a more sustainable business base that is set to benefit from numerous new revenue streams."
The Rural Development Programme for England is a funding scheme for land based businesses, tourism organisations and other small rural businesses which aims to safeguard and enhance the countryside to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the rural economy and help communities thrive.