Holiday lodges refusal puts golf and hotel complex 'under pressure' - developer
PUBLISHED: 14:29 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:40 06 February 2020
A developer who hoped to boost income at his Suffolk hotel and golf club complex with the addition of holiday lodges has expressed surprise the scaled-back plans were refused.
David Harris, of M&D Developments, faced opposition to his proposal for 35 caravan lodges at All Saints Hotel & Golf Club at Fornham All Saints, near Bury St Edmunds - but there was also support.
Originally 70 lodges had been proposed, but the latest application saw this number halved and plans for them to be located solely in the south of the site by the Mildenhall Road industrial area.
Despite being recommended for approval by council officers, it was refused by West Suffolk Council's planning committee on February 5 due to the visual impact on the landscape between Bury and Fornham All Saints.
The ecology and landscape officer felt the "significant" level of tree removal would have a "harmful effect", adding this vegetation "makes an important contribution to the setting of Bury St Edmunds and the gap between the town and the village of Fornham All Saints".
Mr Harris, who also owns nearby wedding venue Hengrave Hall, said he was "really, really surprised" with the decision.
He said: "We had spent a lot of time on visuals, on landscaping. We understand it was important. But for members to go totally against their own policies is rather strange, and balanced with 63 [representations] for and 56 against as far as the public [is concerned]."
READ MORE: Plans for 70 holiday lodges to boost income at golf club and hotel complex
Many improvements have been made at the hotel and golf club since M&D Developments bought it in 2015, but a design and access statement with the application said, despite this, "it has not been possible to make the golf course itself financially viable".
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It mentioned the competition from nearby golf clubs and the expansive layout of the All Saints course. Mr Harris also said golf as a sport was dwindling nationally.
"It [the lodges] would have helped the longevity and viability of this course. It does put it under pressure," he said.
He added the development would have brought at least 25 new jobs and provided a "unique" leisure venture for the area, with lodge guests having access to facilities like the golf course and pool.
Jonathan Miles, part of the economic development team at West Suffolk Council, said he supported this application that would bring a new type of accommodation to a variety to potential visitors.
"Accommodation demand research and anecdotal demand indicates a continued need for accommodation in and around Bury St Edmunds," he said.
The ecology and landscape officer felt the revised planting proposals showed a good level of vegetation across the proposed site, but "the effects of the new development on the boundary with Fornham Road and Pigeon Lane has not been adequately addressed".
The development's impact on the rural green space between the town and Fornham All Saints was a key concern for Fornham St Martin cum St Genevieve Parish Council, for which the hotel and parts of the golf course fall within its parish.
READ MORE: 'Great concern' planned holiday park could impact on important archaeological sites
There had also been some concern over the potential impact on archaeology due to the site's proximity to the battle of Fornham St Genevieve of 1173 and the Fornham cursus scheduled monument, and it being in a topographic area that has a "high potential" for Anglo-Saxon remains to be found.
But the archaeology department at Suffolk County Council felt a condition could be attached to planning permission, if granted, for a programme of archaeological works before development could take place.