Retreat has to close

THE owner of a private rural retreat in a remote Suffolk village has been ordered to cease operations after he was denied permission to continue holding courses there.

Mark Brown had applied to Mid Suffolk District Council for retrospective planning permission to use the Bullocks Ley barn complex in Burgate, near Diss, as a residential conference and training centre for another two years, as well as creating extra car parking space and moving access gates.

But the plans received several objections from neighbours who raised concerns about the “sexual nature” of some courses being held at the retreat, described on its website as an “oasis of calm and nourishment”.

Although these concerns were dismissed by officers, due to the “controversial” nature of the application it was still referred to the council’s planning control committee as it was considered contrary to local policies and national objectives.

And at a meeting this week committee members turned down the application and Mr Brown was told to stop operating there.

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He can submit a new planning application in a bid to reopen the site as a retreat but the council said that if officers found any sessions taking place they would take action.

Last night Mr Brown, who also lives at the centre, refused to speak to the East Anglian Daily Times.

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At the meeting on Wednesday members of the committee agreed that the continued “mixed” use of the complex as a residential property and training or conference centre should not be allowed.

Members decided that the centre was located in an “isolated, rural location” with little transport links, meaning all movements to and from the site would be by private vehicles, something that would be “materially detrimental” to the area in respect of its character and appearance.

Concerns about the parking at the site and the impact the centre would have on community facilities in Burgate and nearby parishes were also cited.

This made the proposal contrary to several council policies as well as the core strategy of the local development framework and the objectives of national planning policy statements.

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