Go-ahead for 'green' tourism scheme

A SUFFOLK entrepreneur is celebrating after councillors gave the thumbs up to the final part of a �4.7million scheme to create a 68-bedroom green farm tourism centre near Ipswich.

A SUFFOLK entrepreneur is celebrating after councillors gave the thumbs up to the final part of a �4.7million scheme to create a 68-bedroom green farm tourism centre near Ipswich.

Dominic Richards said he was “truly delighted” after the final part of the controversial spa and business conference scheme for Brick Kiln Farm at Hemingstone, near Coddenham, was given the green light.

The application, submitted by Retreat East Ltd and designed by architect Mark Hoare, a trustee of the Prince of Wales's The Prince's Foundation, was originally rejected by Mid Suffolk district councillors at a planning committee in February.

The committee chairman referred it to the planning referrals committee on the advice of the district monitoring officer and it was given the green light subject to various conditions at a meeting on Wednesday .

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The scheme, which was recommended for approval by planners, was supported by Choose Suffolk (the Suffolk Development Agency), which said it would allow important mid-week and weekend residential conferences to take place and “assist in establishing Suffolk as a destination for businesses to visit”.

Yaxley Hall Farm Spa is expected to create 11 full and part-time jobs and host seminars and events for up to 150 people.

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Mr Richards, of Yaxley Hall, near Eye, bought the 40-acre farm along with business partner Peter Ede, and sought approval to demolish a 1960s Dutch barn and replace it with a conference barn with sleeping accommodation, as well as create a new biomass boiler house, and car parking and cycle storage areas.

The plans were opposed by Hemingstone, Coddenham and Barham parish councils, which raised various concerns, including that the scheme would adversely affect other services, create increased traffic and that it would become a “holiday camp” which was undesirable in the area.

The overall scheme will include a spa business providing a variety of massages and facials using products with ingredients from the farm, an orchard, vegetable area, traditional sheep breeding, and 14 three-bedroom designer holiday lodges set on a wildflower meadow.

Mr Richards said he believed local opposition stemmed from anonymous flyers which raised fears the site would become a caravan park.

“I am truly delighted that we have been successful in getting the backing of Mid Suffolk District Council, the Suffolk Preservation Society, the Suffolk Development Agency and local farmers for our flagship green farm tourism initiative,” he said.

“I have always believed that even though the farm had lost its ability to operate as a viable agricultural business, this did not mean that an alternative and imaginative solution could not be found to keep the farm as an income and employment generating business. Too often redundant farms become residential developments and in losing their raison d'etre, lose their very soul. We will be an exemplar small green tourism destination that will share a beautiful setting in a responsible and sustainable fashion keeping farming at the heart of all its life.”

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