£20m tourist attraction plans unveiled

A BLUEPRINT for a major £20 million tourist attraction on the edge of the picturesque Stour Valley has been unveiled.Landowners Bunting and Sons want to turn the 120-acre Horkesley Park, in Great Horkesley, into a countryside tourist magnet called the Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre.

A BLUEPRINT for a major £20 million tourist attraction on the edge of the picturesque Stour Valley has been unveiled.

Landowners Bunting and Sons want to turn the 120-acre Horkesley Park, in Great Horkesley, into a countryside tourist magnet called the Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre.

The latest scheme for the plot - described as 'extremely sensitive' by a councillor for the area - comes two years after previous plans were withdrawn.

The venture - called the John Constable Countryside and Heritage Centre when it was first mooted five years ago - would keep a reference to the East Anglian master, who did not paint in this particular area of the Stour Valley, in the form of an exhibition about the life and times of the painter.


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Campaigners who have battled against Bunting and Sons' previous proposals last night vowed to scrutinise the latest plans in great detail before casting their verdict.

Under the proposals, the now-unused tomato glasshouse nursery would be turned into a £20 million country park and leisure complex that would include a Suffolk Punch breeding centre, Chinese-style gardens and an art gallery.

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Bunting and Sons claim the project would create 182 full time jobs at the centre as well as an additional 280 supply chain jobs in the local economy.

The revised project includes a so-called 'interpretation centre' which will aim to show the different civilisations which have inhabited the Stour Valley in the past 10,000 years and a virtual reality recreation of the deserted Medieval settlements that once stood close to the 12th Century Church of All Saints.

Stephen Bunting, a partner at Bunting and Sons, said: "In essence, the Horkesley Park scheme has been subjected to vigorous testing in terms of its environmental impact, its sustainability and its compatibility with local, regional and national objectives and planning policies. The results of this show a raft of benefits with no significant adverse effects.

"Bunting and Sons and their team have listened to the views and opinions of very many local people and organisations. Careful note has also been taken of the long-term vision and policies for the Stour Valley, Colchester and the surrounding area, particularly with regard to appropriate and sustainable growth.

"Generally it is concluded that people would like to see tourism carefully managed to bring money into the area and provide employment combined with recreational and educational opportunities."

Chris Arnold, Colchester Council member for Fordham and Stour, said the site was extremely "sensitive" and called on everybody involved - both for and against - to look closely at exactly what was planned and to make their views known through official channels.

He said: "This area carries the highest possible planning protection and I have a great deal of confidence that the council officers will do their utmost to look at these plans in great deal and make their recommendations based on that work. I'm confident the system will work."

Will Pavry, chairman of the Stour Valley Action Group, said the group only received the plans yesterday adding: "It would be inappropriate to comment on them at this stage. We shall be looking at them very closely during the next few days."

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