The developer behind Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is in advanced talks to take a major role in an ambitious £450m leisure, tourism and residential development planned for south west Scotland which will potentially create over 1,000 new jobs in the region.

Owners of the historic Loudoun Castle estate, site located in the heart of Ayrshire are hopeful that a commercial deal with Harcourt Developments can be concluded very soon. If successful, the arrangement will mean that the developer becomes a key part of the consortium behind the proposed redevelopment of the site which housed the former Loudoun Castle theme park.

Harcourt has indicated that, subject to a contract being put in place, the grant of a planning permission in principle would allow Loudoun Estate to become its next flagship project.

The Loudoun Woods consortium aims to transform the 576-acre Loudoun estate into a world-class tourism and leisure development, the first of its type in Scotland.

The A-listed Loudoun Castle is proposed to be restored along with the designed landscape and gardens.  The current planning application also seeks permission for the Castle’s ultimate potential conversion to a new luxury hotel. The restored castle will become a central feature of the development.

The Loudoun Woods’ outline planning application also envisages luxury holiday lodges, camping and a range of indoor sports facilities, including a tropical swimming lagoon.

A new community consisting of approximately 1,000 energy-efficient homes will be a key component of the development. It will provide the necessary funding for the stabilisation and restoration of the castle.

The planning application for the Loudoun Woods Resort has been “called in” for determination by Scottish Ministers due to the potential national economic benefit.   The inquiry will begin in Kilmarnock on October 23.

The Loudoun Woods consortium is headed by international leisure and investment expert David Mace, who founded the Sea Life concept in the UK and has served as a director on the boards of several leading leisure companies.

He said: “Loudoun Castle will be an all-weather, world-class holiday destination, which will attract visitors from all over the UK, create major economic benefits for Ayrshire and become a core part of Scotland’s tourism offering.

“The fact that Harcourt is considering becoming part of the Loudoun Woods consortium and making a significant investment in Scotland, speaks volumes for the quality and international scope of what we are planning.

“We are looking forward to the planning inquiry and, given a positive decision by Scottish Ministers, we are aiming to begin works in the summer of 2018 on a project that will transform the economy of this part of Scotland.”

Harcourt Developments is the company behind the Titanic Quarter, one of the world’s largest waterfront urban regeneration projects on the site of the former Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast, where the liner Titanic was built.

Paul Manning of Harcourt said: “We are engaged in very positive discussions and hope to be able to conclude an agreement to join the Loudoun Woods consortium.  The site’s historic setting, great transport links and proximity to some of the world’s most famous golf courses, gives it massive potential to become one of the UK’s most successful tourism destinations.”

If Scottish Ministers grant permission for the development in principle, it is hoped that stabilisation work on the castle could begin as early as summer of 2018.

David Mace added: “Our vision is that Loudoun Woods becomes Scotland’s premier short-stay inclusive resort with the lodges and treehouses built sensitively amidst the forest landscape of the estate and around the indoor tropical water park.

“It will be a traffic-free environment with cycle and walking paths linking the accommodation to the water park, hotel and other leisure amenities.  The Loudoun Castle hotel will be the centrepiece of the development, allowing us to restore this historic castle to be enjoyed by future generations.”

Loudoun Woods consortium consists of Loudoun Estate and private investors, headed by David Mace.

Loudoun Castle heritage:

Once known as the “Windsor of Scotland”, Loudoun Castle, the ancestral home of the Campbell family of Loudoun, dates to the 12th century. The castle was extended in the early 1800s as a baronial palace for Flora Mure-Campbell, Countess of Loudoun and her husband the Second Earl of Moira. James and Robert Adam and Archibald Elliot, who were responsible for the architecture, created the 90-room mansion, one of the grandest in the West of Scotland at the time. It has been in a state of ruin since 1941, when a fire caused major damage to the castle.