Inspector hears debate over Billingford ‘country park’

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014
7:13 AM

An agricultural building, which was controversially erected at a mid-Norfolk beauty spot, was labelled a “Trojan horse” by objectors at an appeal hearing where a government inspector began his investigation into whether the district council should enforce its removal.

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Businessman Basil Todd, who owns 140 acres of land at Billingford Lakes, erected the building at the former quarry in November 2012 to store agricultural machinery and materials for a proposed fish farm, but only had planning consent for a structure half the size.

Its construction and subsequent planning applications for a visitor centre and camping on the site has led residents of neighbouring villages to suspect Mr Todd of building it to serve leisure and tourism opportunities on the site and not for any agricultural uses as he had suggested.

Bill Borrett, Breckland councillor for Billingford, said: “It was the opinion of the council that this was a Trojan horse to support (Mr Todd’s) leisure business. The land has not been used for agriculture since it was erected and there is nothing to suggest there will be agriculture in the future. It is being used for tourism.”

John Labouchere from North Elmham said: “This is a valley of great beauty and the longest and best river we have in Norfolk. This is not the right place for a development of any sort.”

The hearing, led by planning inspector Keri Williams, was brought after Mr Todd appealed against Breckland’s decision to refuse planning permission for the structure and subsequent enforcement notice.

The hearing also heard his appeal against the council’s decision to refuse plans for a visitor centre and camping pods. He has since submitted a new application to convert the agricultural building into the visitor centre, which has yet to be determined.

At the hearing opponents to the visitor centre plans said it was an “alien” structure which was visually intrusive and would set a precedent for other development in the Wensum Valley. They also raised concerns about noise, light pollution, highway safety and impact on wildlife and habitats.

Roger Thorneley of Hoe and Worthing parish meeting said there were already other camping sites locally and that this plan was not “sustainable”. He said: “I am very concerned about Mr Todd’s long term plans.”

Eric Kirk, facilities manager for Mr Todd, said there was a “misconception” about the amount of traffic it would bring to the area. “It will be nothing like the lorries that used to frequent the site in its construction and farming days,” he said. “You need to look at the bigger picture - it is not intented to destroy the ambience but to let others enjoy it and protect it. The site was originally bought for agriculture and fisheries but after Mr Todd tidied it up he decided it was more suitable for a small country park.”

Mr Todd said there was now “100 times” more wildlife on the site than when he bought it, he had planted 5000 trees and it was now flourishing.

Mr Williams also made a site visit and will publish his decision in the next few weeks.

2 comments

  • good on the inspector. Now, we have been asked by the EDP what we think about voting for a Broads manager, sadly no comments allowed after that 'come on' to vote on their inconsequential poll. Long overdue, but the Government woulkd have to pay for election. Employing too many staff has left no money in the kitty and dredging of navigational rights of way is behind schedule. The Broads face certain extinction due to accelerated sea level rises and unless some precautionary thoughts go on serious sea defences, the Broads will just be a start to the watery world.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, June 5, 2014

  • I sincerely hope the god of tourism is having an off day when this hearing is held. If we want to conserve and preserve our wild life and wild Norfolk, some of it has to be left alone and not exploited by the greedy because it is pretty.Wildlife will often rub along with the infrequent activities of agriculture but be frightened off by the constant presence of people-people on holiday are not quiet and they are often on holiday when birds are nesting. The proper thing to do , and it should have been a condition of quarrying, after the aggregate companies had done their worst, was to leave the pits and the river to restore themselves naturally, in the way the broads did. There were otters and kingfishers in the Wensum valley when I was a little tot living close by and I would wager that the claim about 100 times more wildlife than at the time of purchase is false because the adjoining areas of the valley are wildlife rich. If we want tourism in natural surroundings then create the parks on brown fields or poor quality farmland and develop a wildlife habitat around them, not adversely affect an existing habitat by exploiting it.

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    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, June 5, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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