Henham hotel complex under threat

A £60m hotel and leisure scheme on an East Anglian country estate will not get off the ground with the strings attached to the development, the estate manager has warned.

By SARAH BREALEY

A £60m hotel and leisure scheme on an East Anglian country estate will not get off the ground with the strings attached to the development, the estate manager has warned.

The owners of the Henham estate, between Beccles and Southwold, have big plans for a development of 200 apartments and 100 hotel rooms, as well as restaurants, cafes, conference facilities and perhaps a cinema and golf course. It is a major part of a plan to breathe new life into the estate, whose income is expected to drop due to falls in farm subsidies and the end of quarrying on the estate.

In September Waveney District Council's rural planning committee granted outline permission. Councillors praised it for "putting the heart back into Henham" and bringing "year-round business, which is what we need". Because the hotel does not conform to planning policies for the area, it also needs permission from Hazel Blears, secretary of state for communities and local government.

But estate manager Hektor Rous, the son of the sixth earl of Stradbroke, says that the condition imposed on the development by planning officers since the planning meeting would make it unviable. Although he applied for permission for holiday apartments, he is not happy with the definition of holiday apartments planning officers have chosen. They have said that the apartments should not be lived in for more than 28 days consecutively - but Mr Rous says this is too restrictive and impossible to enforce. Now he has applied for removal of the condition.

He said: "It makes it difficult enough that the project will not be able to go ahead. We won't be able to afford it. This condition is one that you would use for caravans and log cabins, not apartments which will have lifts and a swimming pool and views over the Repton parkland. It will be a much more expensive development."

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He said that the apartments "absolutely would be limited to holiday occupancy" and that he would ask for proof of a permanent address, but that he did not want to stop people from renting them out for six weeks in the school holidays if they wanted to.

The issue is likely to be decided by the council's rural planning committee at its meeting next month. Planning officers consider Henham Park to be one of the district's most prized assets, and will be unlikely to grant permission for apartments without any constraints as to holiday occupancy.

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