Decision due today on controversial visitor centre plan at Billingford Lakes in mid Norfolk

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt

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

A controversial visitor centre at a lakeside beauty spot near Dereham could finally become a reality after years of failed attempts to get it passed by planners.

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt

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

A hybrid application for a visitor centre, campsite, outdoor recreation centre and eight holiday lodges at Billingford Lakes, close to North Elmham, goes before Breckland Council's planning committee today recommended for approval.

The applicant is Wensum Valley Hotel, Golf and Country Club in Taverham, run by the family of the late Basil Todd, a well-known entrepreneur who bought the Billingford site as a disused gravel pit in 2010 but was unable to realise his visitor centre vision before his death in 2015.

The report going before planners states that the visitor centre could comprise a reception, office, display areas, cafe, toilets and shower facilities, kitchen and storage areas. It would be timber boarded with olive green metal roof cladding and with a maximum height of 5.29m. There would be 36 car parking spaces, two coach parking spaces and cycle parking.

The outdoor recreation facility would include a toilet, shower and laundry facilities.

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There is also a retrospective consent application for soil bund mounds, viewing hides and anglers' huts, landscape screening and two electricity sub-stations.

The applicant says it will raise the profile of Dereham and Breckland as a holiday destination and provide employment and economic benefits.

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But there have once again been concerns raised from surrounding parishes, particularly on increased noise, light and traffic.

The report says Hoe and Worthing Parish Meeting 'strongly objects to the proposal in its entirety,' adding, 'the proposed development is wholly inappropriate and undesirable in a particularly sensitive location which should enjoy a high degree of protection.'

Comments from the public were split 19 in support and 44 objecting.

Supporters say it will provide employment opportunities, educational and conservation benefits and will be an asset to the area but objections range from dangers to children around the lakes, to noise, light and traffic pollution, harmful visual impact, harm to ecosystem of Wensum Valley, and is a 'holiday camp in a sensitive location'.

See this website later for an update.

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