Billingford Lakes owner defiant after latest setback to his visitor centre ambitions

PUBLISHED: 10:30 08 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:17 08 July 2014

Basil Todd, owner of Billingford Lakes. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Basil Todd, owner of Billingford Lakes. Picture; Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

A landowner has vowed to keep fighting to create his dream of a visitor centre at a former quarry in mid-Norfolk, despite his latest scheme being rejected.

Basil Todd’s application to convert an existing agricultural building into recreational facilities for visitors enjoying the scenery and wildlife at Billingford Lakes, near Dereham, was unanimously refused by Breckland’s planning committee yesterday.

But the businessman, who also owns Wensum Valley Golf and Country Club at Taverham, said he would not give up on his controversial plans for the site.

“I will be appealing this decision,” he said after the meeting which saw the committee room filled with opponents to his scheme.

“I don’t want to destroy anything there, but just enhance it. When I bought the site there was no wildlife at all and now there is so much wildlife... There are a lot of people who do support this and come from all over Norfolk to enjoy the place.”

The latest plan, which had been deferred twice, had been recommended for approval by senior development control officer Jayne Owen.

But in light of comments made by government inspector Keri Williams, who last week rejected three appeals by Mr Todd against Breckland’s refusal of planning permission for the building, enforcement for its removal and a separate visitor centre and camping pods, the recommendation was changed to refusal just before the meeting.

Planning officer Gary Hancox also said he had received an objection from Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, however he did suggest that a scaled down application with a smaller building could still be deemed acceptable in the future.

Six opponents, representing

parish councils and local groups, spoke against the plans which Swanton Morley parish council chairman Roger Atterwill described as a “sorry saga that needs to be concluded”.

John Labouchere appealed to the committee to reject what he called an “avaricious exploitation”.

He said: “Any permission granted remains with the land forever. I am sure neither you nor I wish to be party to passing this satanic mill to our successors.”

Trevor Wood, chairman of Hoe and Worthing parish meeting said that as a smaller scheme had already been rejected by a government inspector, this much larger scale application “cannot possibly be compliant”.

Bill Borrett, Breckland councillor for Billingford said while he was not against development of the countryside there were still rules to abide by.

“The inspector said that the building has an unacceptable impact on the landscape so there is no need to justify its refusal.”

After the meeting Mr Borrett said they were “very pleased” at Breckland’s decision to refuse the application and that so many turning out to support the objectors demonstrated the strength of feeling.

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