Campaigners fight heritage park plan

A HERITAGE park proposed for the Stour Valley has been attacked as a giant retail and tourist enterprise which would threaten the fabric of local life.

A HERITAGE park proposed for the Stour Valley has been attacked as a giant retail and tourist enterprise which would threaten the fabric of local life.

The claim has come from more than 30 people involved in local businesses in the area surrounding Horkesley Park where moves are afoot to create a countryside heritage centre.

Bunting and Sons have lodged an application with Colchester Borough Council for the £20 million development on the Essex / Suffolk border which would include an art gallery, restaurants and a garden centre.

The company has said the development would create hundreds of jobs and provide a boost to the local economy.

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But a host of businesses have signed an open letter of opposition to the council's planning department.

They include the Post Office Stores at Great Horkesley, SR. Griggs builder in Nayland, Nayland Forge, the Steam Mill House B&B in Nayland and Country Roses in Little Horkesley.

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The signatories said Horkesley Park would do more harm than good to the local economy.

It states: “It will threaten our livelihoods, the services we offer and the very fabric of the community.

“It is not true to say, as the proposal suggests, that this area is in need of regeneration. Unlike many other parts of the country, the Stour Valley is lucky to be a relatively dynamic place with very low levels of unemployment.

“We believe that to introduce such a giant retail and tourist development into this small area would swamp the infrastructure of the local community and economy.”

The letter states the Stour Valley is a lovely area to live and visit with the existing pubs, restaurants and farm shops all playing their part.

The small businesses such as carpet layers and curtain makers have signed up because they believe the park would lead to traffic congestion in the area, affecting their ability to work.

But Stephen Bunting, partner at Bunting and Sons, said: “As we know of almost all of the signatories we are in no doubt that Horkesley Park will have extremely beneficial effects on many of those businesses and at worst be neutral for the rest.

“We believe that scaremongering and misinformation perpetrated by a small but extremely active 'anti group' has caused individuals and businesses to be unnecessarily concerned.

“Anyone who does not realise that more and more local shops, post offices, pubs and other such rural businesses are disappearing at an alarming fast rate is not in touch with the real world. Action needs to be taken before it is too late.

“Horkesley Park will help to reverse the downward spiral which if not arrested will have the inevitable effect of rural villages becoming dormitories for people who go to work further afield.

“Horkesley Park will be an outstanding Heritage and Conservation Centre and will benefit many people. It will not be as the anti lobby proclaim a giant retail enterprise.”

He added economists had calculated visitors to Horkesley Park would sustain 243 local full time jobs, plus 198 full time jobs elsewhere in the region and 119 outside the region.

“This is a combination of direct employment, the supply chain and the multiplier effect in the economy,” he added.

Colchester Borough Council is set to vote on the application within the next few months.

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