Breckland councillors finally approve long-running plans for visitor centre and holiday lodges at Billingford Lakes in mid Norfolk

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Long-running and controversial plans to build a visitor centre and eight holiday lodges at a lakeside beauty spot in mid Norfolk have been granted planning permission.

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Breckland councillors approved the scheme for Billingford Lakes, near Dereham.

The plans were the vision of well-known entrepreneur Basil Todd. He wanted to create a centre for tourism, recreation and wildlife education after he bought the site seven years ago.

But he died in 2015 without seeing his vision become a reality, failing to overturn two previous refusals at appeal.

Members of Mr Todd's family submitted the new application.

Basil Todd bought Billingford Lakes in 2010. He died in 2015 without seeing his visitor centre visi

Basil Todd bought Billingford Lakes in 2010. He died in 2015 without seeing his visitor centre vision become reality. Picture; Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher


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On Monday eight councillors voted in favour of the plans, one voted against them and one councillor abstained.

Breckland Council received 47 letters of objection from members of the public and 19 letters of support.

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Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman wrote to the council to express concerns and objections were expressed by Swanton Morley Parish Council and Hoe and Worthing Parish Council,

It was claimed the site could attract up to 38,000 visitors a year.

The design for the proposed new visitor centre at Billingford Lakes. Picture: BD&M (UK) Ltd

The design for the proposed new visitor centre at Billingford Lakes. Picture: BD&M (UK) Ltd - Credit: BD&M (UK) Ltd

There were concerns over the impact on wildlife and the River Wensum, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, noise, traffic and light pollution.

Supporters highlighted how the development would create jobs, boost the local tourism industry and provide educational and conservation benefits.

Breckland Council case officer Simon Wood recommended approval.

District councillor Bill Borrett said: 'This council has consistently refused these plans and had these decisions supported by the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol. This application is more dangerous than previous application as it is larger scale.'

The design for the proposed new visitor centre at Billingford Lakes. Picture: BD&M (UK) Ltd

The design for the proposed new visitor centre at Billingford Lakes. Picture: BD&M (UK) Ltd - Credit: BD&M (UK) Ltd

It was highlighted that Mr Todd's daughter Bridgette Hall had worked closely with the council and other organisations to resolve previous concerns and has entered into a management agreement with Natural England to protect the River Wensum.

The Environment Agency and Natural England had no objections.

District councillor Gordon Bambridge said: 'This new application has resolved issues of previous applications. It will provide jobs and facilities that the local community can use.'

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