Green tourism scheme to go ahead

THE first phase of a �4.5million green farm tourism centre near Ipswich will be completed within the next two years in spite of the recession, one of the two entrepreneurs behind it has said.

THE first phase of a �4.5million green farm tourism centre near Ipswich will be completed within the next two years in spite of the recession, one of the two entrepreneurs behind it has said.

Solicitor Peter Ede, of Eye, and developer and wedding venue owner Dominic Richards, of Yaxley Hall, near Eye, bought 40-acre Brick Kiln Farm at Hemingstone, four years ago and finally succeeded in getting the green light in April for the final phase of their ambitious 68-bedroom scheme set in an organic farm.

Yaxley Hall Farm Spa, which is expected to create 11 full and part-time jobs, is set to include up to 14 three-bedroom designer holiday lodges, a new conference barn with sleeping accommodation and a catering kitchen on the site of an old 1950s barn, and a Victorian barn conversion.

The barns have been designed by Mark Hoare, an adviser to the National Trust and a trustee of the Prince of Wales's The Prince's Foundation.

Mr Ede said they had yet to decide whether to go ahead with all three parts to the project at once or in phases, but said the lodges, which form part of the first phase of development, would be installed within two years.

“By the end of the next two years all these lodges will be up and running. There's no doubt about that,” he said.

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Mr Richards said the project would take between 18 months and 48 months, depending on whether they chose to develop in phases or all at once.

“We are very lucky that we are able to choose when to start this project. In that respect we are able to take advantage of the time now to develop the project in time for a more normal trading environment,” he said.

The project will include a herb garden area, a wildflower meadow, an orchard, a vegetable patch and some grazing animals, and green transportation is envisaged as part of the environmental ethos of the site. The farmhouse on the site has already been restored and turned into a holiday home. It is hoped that visitors and guests will participate in some of the activities of the farm, and relaxation will include eco-friendly hot tubs fuelled by wood harvested on site and spa treatments.

The final phase of the farm's conversion to organic principles is expected to be completed next year.

“The amount of wildlife you see around here is unbelievable,” said Mr Ede. “It's become a complete natural oasis which is what we hoped, but we didn't think it would happen so quickly.”

He added: “This really is a life project. We very much see it as we'll still be owning and running the project in 30 years.”

The idea was to create “very, very luxurious” accommodation, he said, with welcome hampers including food grown.

“Farms have always been centres of commerce and lots of different activities and that's what we would like going on here.”

They hoped the site could be used to learn about ancient building techniques during the building phase of the project, and about farming techniques and food. Before moving to Suffolk, Mr Richards and Mr Ede worked on an acclaimed conversion of a disused sweet factory building in Brighton.