Garden could be top tourist attraction

By Sharon AsplinA REDEVELOPMENT which would allow one of Essex's top tourist attractions to accommodate up to 200,000 people a year is expected to get the go-ahead tonight.

By Sharon Asplin

A REDEVELOPMENT which would allow one of Essex's top tourist attractions to accommodate up to 200,000 people a year is expected to get the go-ahead tonight.

The Royal Horticultural Society's Hyde Hall Garden in Rettendon, near Chelmsford, needs new facilities to cope with growing numbers. Last year saw visitor numbers rise to 79,000 from 58,000 the previous year.

It also plans to open the attraction, which is a mix of horticultural gardens and farmland, for a full 12-month season – currently the garden opens for seven months a year.


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Chelmsford Borough Council's planning committee is expected tonight to grant permission for the society to build a new visitors centre and create parking for 600 vehicles on its 130-hectare site.

Hyde Hall is about one-third of the way through its horticultural development programme.

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The new visitor complex to the north of the estate forms part of a two-phase plan to make Hyde Hall a garden of national and international renown, as well as one of the key tourist attractions in Essex.

Architects van Heyningen and Haward have designed the complex in sympathy with the landscape.

Several single-storey buildings are grouped round a courtyard to house a reception, a shop, a café, a library and offices.

A new plant centre will also be built and the proposals include a new access road from East Hanningfield Road.

Ian Cole, property manager, was delighted council officers had recommended councillors should back the scheme.

"We have been encouraged by the positive support from our neighbours and the response from key players in the tourism industry, recognising how important this significant investment to the area will be," he said.

Hyde Hall curator, Matthew Wilson, added: "The new visitor complex would relieve pressure on our existing buildings in the centre of the garden, allow us to improve the garden and create better facilities for visitors."

He added the extra space would also allow the society to meet a growing demand for its schools education programme and events programme.

Andrew Colquhoun, director general of the Royal Horticultural Society, said: "We have a vision for Hyde Hall as one of the great gardens for this part of England.

"The horticulture is already of a high standard, our plans will help us to create the infrastructure to match."

Later this year, Hyde Hall will open the Queen Mother's Garden, a tribute to the former patron.

sharon.asplin@eadt.co.uk

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