Landowner defiant after latest setback

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

Monday, July 7, 2014
1:31 PM

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

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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 this morning.

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 I can’t describe the difference. There is 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. Norfolk is not ours nor the applicant’s to do with what we will. It is in our charge while we are here and will be our legacy. It is our duty to maintain it in the best possible way for future generations to enjoy.”

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 if it supported rural communities 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 among local people.

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