Horkesley Park: Heritage park moves a step closer

Stephen Bunting with a 3D model showing the proposed Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre

Stephen Bunting with a 3D model showing the proposed Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre - Credit: Archant

PLANNING officers have recommended multi-million-pound proposals for Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre be approved next week.

Colchester Borough Council has published its full report of the divisive planning application which could see a 100-acre visitor attraction being built on the edge of the Stour Valley.

The report states all information has been considered and the planning service has concluded that a tentative recommendation issued in December “should remain and not be changed”.

Long-standing opponents to the £25million scheme say they completely reject the recommendation and will be contesting it at the planning committee meeting on February 28.

Bunting & Sons has applied to build a regional attraction which is described as “a celebration of the English countryside” through the themes of agriculture, food, art, countryside and conservation.

The plans are a scaled-down version of a previous application which was rejected last May and include proposals for an art gallery, gardens, a Suffolk Punch breeding centre and animal displays. Bunting & Sons say the centre will create up to 200 jobs.

Around 75% of the site is located within the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), but the proposed new buildings will fall outside the AONB.

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The company say the centre will attract 316,000 visitors a year but these figures have been described as “optimistic” in the report.

Concerns over traffic and the loss of natural landscape have also been raised repeatedly by opponents to the centre.

But the chairman of the Stour Valley Action Group Will Pavry said: “It’s concerning that the planning officers are recommending approval against the recommendations of their planning policy colleagues. We need to understand why this is the case.

“Clearly we don’t accept the conclusions of the planning officers and we will be contesting them at the meeting on the 28th.

“We will be reviewing the documents with experts and will make appropriate comments then.”

The Group had accused the council of not properly consulting over the application prompting a delay in the publication of the planning report which was due to be published last week.

Kate Bunting, Partner of Bunting & Sons said: “I am delighted that the council officers are supporting our planning application to create Horkesley Park.

“The planning officers have thoroughly reviewed the application and appreciated the benefits of what it will deliver.

“We hope this puts us in good stead at the planning committee meeting and we are looking forward to a favourable response.”