Farmers fight heritage park plan

A GROUP of farmers and landowners in the Stour Valley area has come out publicly against plans to create a large rural heritage centre nearby.

Roddy Ashworth

A GROUP of farmers and landowners in the Stour Valley area has come out publicly against plans to create a large rural heritage centre nearby.

An open letter, containing 17 signatories, has been sent to Colchester Borough Council objecting to recently submitted proposals for the Horkesley Park Conservation and Heritage Centre, which if approved would be built at Great Horkesley.

The �20million scheme, billed as “a celebration of the English Countryside”, would see a 117-acre site transformed into parkland and gardens containing an information centre, an art gallery, shops, restaurants and a Suffolk Punch breeding centre.

However, some local people fear the scheme could cause traffic gridlock in roads around the area and lead to noise and light pollution in the Dedham Vale, which is designated as an Area of outstanding natural Beauty (AONB).

Today protesters are due to create their own traffic problems in the area surrounding Horkesley Park to highlight the impact they claim the centre will have on the local roads.

Most Read

Among the signatories on the landowners' letter are John Copsey, of Priory Farm, Little Horkesley, Jonathan Minter, of the Rivers Hall estate, Boxted, and Chris Chamley, of Great House Farm in Pebmarsh.

It claims that if the plans go ahead, lanes around Fordham, Eight Ash Green, Higham, Stoke-by-Nayland, Nayland, Layham, Polstead, Bures, and Little and Great Horkesley would become much busier and more dangerous.

“We are all involved in farming and most of us have farmed the land of the Stour Valley for many years,” it continues.

“It is already an arduous and challenging enough business to transport our goods, be they sugar beet or onions, grain or animals, as increasingly frantic car drivers make dangerous overtaking manoeuvres on these lanes and highways.”

The letter adds: “With visitor numbers expected to peak in August, just when most of us have the harvest to get in, an already tricky operation will be made nigh-well impossible.”

They conclude: “We also ask that the people of Colchester look beyond a cynical manipulation of the terms “Heritage” and “Conservation” and understand that this planning application threatens the destruction of acceptable farming land.

“The light pollution, the litter pollution and the traffic pollution generated by so many visitors will cause that threat.

“This land could, and should, be farmed rather than turned into a parody of a farm for commercial gain.”

However yesterday Stephen Bunting, the man behind the Horkesley Park plans, said he did not believe the writers of the letter were representative of the whole farming community.

“I believe that what this group of farmers have said is just wrong, and they have said it because they have been misinformed about the details of the plans.

“There are over 100 farmers and producers who want to have Horkesley Park in existence because they see it as a unique opportunity to promote their produce.

“This facility will help local farmers, not hinder them, as well as providing valuable educational opportunities about farming to schools.

“We would strongly encourage people to read the actual planning application itself rather than hearing about it second hand from those who may have a vested interest.”