Looking to stop Santa's visits
STEVE DOWNES The potential presence of Father Christmas has sparked a festive fallout between Norfolk's newest tourist attraction and its neighbours.
The potential presence of Father Christmas has sparked a festive fallout between Norfolk's newest tourist attraction and its neighbours.
Bewilderwood - a tree-house adventure park that cost £1.5m to develop in the heart of the Broads - opened to the public on May 21 and has attracted tens of thousands of visitors.
Now the park's managers are bidding to capitalise on its popularity by opening from December 20 to 24 so that people can visit Santa.
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But some neighbours and Hoveton Parish Council are opposed to the move - claiming it is against the "educational" concept of the original plan, and that it will create traffic problems on a "dangerous" road that runs past the site.
The application comes before the Broads Authority's planning committee on Friday, and officers are recommending it be approved.
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The report said Bewilderwood had permission to open between 10am and 7pm on any day between March 1 and October 31, plus an extra 10 days each year.
Bewilderwood has applied to continue with the same days, but added a clause that it could open on the last Sunday of autumn half-term, if the day fell after October 31. It has also asked for the pre-Christmas days.
A comment from Hoveton Parish Council said: "Removal of this condition coupled with the events given on the application are against the original educational concept of the description of the planning consent.
"Further the additional traffic to such events, along an already identified dangerous bended road, allocated a 40mph speed limit, adds to the inconvenience the increase of openings would have on the neighbouring properties."
One neighbour objected on the grounds that the activities were not "appropriate" for an "outdoor adventure and education centre", while fearing December opening would not allow the site to recover from erosion and damage in time for the following season.
Another resident called for the main gate to be replanted with bushes because the area was an "eyesore" from his property.
The officers' report acknowledged the Christmas visits were "unlikely to have any educational content", but said it could be classed as an "outdoor adventure".
It said the additional opening was "not considered to be excessive", while any impact would be "minimal".
Bewilderwood, near Wroxham, features tree houses, aerial walkways, slides and zipwires set in a mystical world of woodland creatures headed by Swampy.