Station couple angry at council

A couple trying to save a Victorian railway station building in Norfolk by opening a llama farm claim they are on the verge of giving up because of council bureaucracy.

A couple trying to save a Victorian railway station building in Norfolk by opening a llama farm claim they are on the verge of giving up because of council bureaucracy.

Lesley and Lee Wyatt have paid out more than £10,000 so far trying to meet the demands of Broadland District Council in preparing plans for a sympathetic redevelopment of the former Whitwell Station site in Reepham.

The couple had wanted to set up an open centre for families to learn about llamas and how to make clothing from their wool, combined with panels on the history of the area.

Despite scaling back their plans so the 40-llama farm will now only be open 28 days a year, the plans are still facing opposition from Broadland council officials.

The council's conservation officer feels the 1880s red-brick railway station building is not of sufficient historic worth to warrant its conversion into a home, despite support for the development from heritage groups SAVE Britain's Heritage and CPRE Norfolk.

The couple are keen to preserve the station building with its ticket-office hatch, passenger platforms, original station front and waiting room.

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Mrs Wyatt, of Bradenham, near Dereham, said: "We cannot believe their attitude. We still really want to do this but we have been forced to start looking at other locations.

"This is setting a terrible example for people in the area trying to save old buildings."

The site was only sold to the Wyatts on condition they are able to get planning permission to redevelop it and if they are unsuccessful it may go to another bidder or be put back on the market.

This has prompted fears that Broadland District Council could revive its interest in the site as a potential travellers' camp - proposals that were very unpopular in Reepham.

Broadland conservation officer Barbara Hornbrook said in a letter to the Wyatts that the building was neither old enough nor had enough of the original features intact to merit the conversion and that she would therefore recommend their plans were refused.

The Wyatts' plans to restore the station building as a home and the goods shed for storage and a workshop will be decided by Broadland District Council on April 18.