Businessman’s proposal to create large wildlife sanctuary and caravan park in Billingford, near Dereham

A Norfolk businessman hopes to create a wildlife sanctuary and caravan park which he hopes will become an asset to the county's tourism industry.

Basil Todd, owner of Wensum Valley Hotel, Golf and Country Club at Taverham, has submitted the plans to Breckland Council for 140 acres of land to be developed off Elmham Road, Billingford, near Dereham.

Mr Todd, from Welborne, said: 'The idea is for children to come along and enjoy the wildlife and learn about it.

'Wildlife is my hobby and I'm looking to conserve it. I want to give a little bit back to the community.'

The area he would like to develop was formerly owned by Cemex and used for the extraction of aggregates.

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Mr Todd bought the site, which includes several lakes and a quarter of a mile of the River Wensum, two years ago.

He said the wildlife sanctuary and caravan park would cost just over �1m to create and, if passed, would be open by July.

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'It is a perfect site for wildlife,' he added.

The buildings would not be visible from the road because of natural screening, according to Mr Todd.

Between 10 and 15 part-time and full-time jobs would be created.

He said: 'I hope it will go through because I think it will be a great asset for Norfolk in the tourism industry. I think it will be a main attraction in Norfolk.'

Wildlife on the site currently includes osprey birds, kingfishers, otters, skylarks, white egret birds, signal crayfish and trout.

Mr Todd has established bird hides and areas where the animals can be fed and would like children to be able to identify different species from the various lakes and ponds.

If planning permission is granted, a visitor centre, caf�, 10 camping pods, a children's play area, 40 caravan pitches and an area for tents will be created.

Each camping pod would be able to sleep between four and six people and a room showing Roman artefacts has also been included in the plans.

Several historical finds from the Roman period have been discovered at the site and Mr Todd would like to re-create homes typical during that era.

He added that he would like to run a country fair from the park each year.

Mr Todd said the response from villagers has been generally positive.

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