June 20 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Ambitious plans for a visitor centre and camping site at a beauty spot in mid-Norfolk look set to be turned down again by planners after numerous environmental concerns were raised.
Businessman Basil Todd, who owns the land which includes nine lakes at Billingford, near North Elmham, as well as the Wensum Valley Golf and Country Club at Taverham, has tried twice before to get plans approved for the former CEMEX site but has had to withdraw them both times after encountering overwhelming opposition.
The current application, which goes before Breckland’s planners on Monday, asks for full planning permission for a visitor centre, including cafe, meeting room and viewing deck. It also asks for a large parking area for up to 49 vehicles, eight disabled spaces and coach parking, a children’s play area and 10 prefabricated camping pods.
The site, to the east of Billingford, is made up of a mixture of fallow agricultural land, woodland and ponds which were created when it was operated as a quarry. Part of the site is designated Scheduled Ancient Monument and lies next to a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also known to be of archaeological interest.
Opposition has come from Swanton Morley parish council, Billingford parish council and Hoe and Worthing parish council who object on grounds of impact on wildlife, removal of trees and hedges, pollution and flood risk, impact on SSSI, light and noise pollution, impact on highway safety and damage to bridleway.
The Environment Agency, Natural England, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Ramblers Association and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) have all raised concerns and ask for further assessment by the authority to discover the full environmental impact of the application and its affect on the SSSI and SAC.
In a letter to planners, James Parry, chairman of CPRE Norfolk, said there were concerns about work that he said had already gone ahead unchecked at the site. He said: “It is unusual to come across an application that contravenes quite so many planning guidelines and policies as this one. What particularly concerns the CPRE Norfolk is the extent to which so much potentially damaging work has already gone ahead at the site concerned without the requisite permission and that little or nothing by way of enforcement has been implemented by Breckland DC.”
Other letters of objection have voiced concerns that a visitor centre would be an unwelcome intrusion on a quiet rural area, increase in traffic, waste disposal, impact on wildlife and that it would lead to more urbanisation and commercialisation.
The planning report concludes that the “economic benefits of the proposals need to be weighed against the potential adverse affects on the local environment” and recommends refusal on grounds that insufficient information has been submitted to enable it to conclude that the interests of the site would not be “seriously compromised”.
Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found in a garden pond today.
max temp: 15°C
min temp: 14°C