By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor

WHAT does a city do if it’s land-locked and miles from a large body of water? Simple, it creates a lake. In fact, it creates about 20 of them. The East German city of Leipzig is surrounded by man-made lakes.The Leipziger Neuseenland provides an attractive destination for residents to unwind, and a draw for the region’s burgeoning tourist trade.

But they weren’t even here 20 years ago.

The lakes, which vary in size and depth, were created from disused Communist-era open-cast coal mines.

They have been flooded, with marinas and shore-side attractions built too, and tend to be privately owned and each themed differently.

One of the largest, and closest to Leipzig, just 6km south of the city, is Cospudener See, managed by businessmen Chris Conrad and Michael Rode.

They began construction in 1999, after forming a public-private partnership, and now directly manage three other lakes too.

Cospudener See is about 50 metres deep and pulls in 500,000 visitors a year, with two million overnight stays, though 80 per cent are from Germany.

Visitors come to swim, dive and sail around the lake, which has a paved circumference of 10.4km.

The water is still owned by the government but private companies can own the shore.

The businessmen have the harbour rights for the next 20 years, and own the Pier1 shore-side development of apartments, retail and leisure facilities.

These are let to 15 businesses, providing 100 jobs.

“When Chris brought me here in 1999 there was only a hole filled with some dirty water,” said Mr Rode. “But he had a vision, to create a marina.

“The city of Leipzig wanted to develop this area and asked for ideas.

“They wanted something recreational but weren’t really sure what, for local people and to attract tourists.

“Many West German people have not been to the East.

“We applied for finance in 1999 and started building.

“The money came from our own capital, 20 per cent, bank loans, 40 per cent, and subsidies from the regional and federal and regional governments, and the EU.”

He said Cospudener See cost five million euros, but it was the 1990s, when East German land cost 20 euros a square metre, today it would be 300 euros.

“Since 2004 we have tripled revenue, by attracting additional people and adapting prices,” he said.

Mr Conrad said the vision is not complete – he would like to build canals linking the lakes.

“And we want every lake to have its own architecture, maybe even boat houses in the water,” he said.

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(Publicity generated by Dorcas Media)