Suffolk Punch centre back on track

THE project to secure the future of the Suffolk Punch horse and create a visitor attraction centred on the animal was back on track yesterday after agreement was reached on the sale of a stud.

THE project to secure the future of the Suffolk Punch horse and create a visitor attraction centred on the animal was back on track yesterday after agreement was reached on the sale of a stud.

The Suffolk Punch Trust was given a deadline of August 31 to exercise its option to buy the stud and surrounding land near the prisons at Hollesley, near Woodbridge.

The trust has put down a deposit and has agreed to complete the deal by April 1. It is now continuing to seek financial support for the project.

Included in the price are the existing stables, agricultural farm buildings, 180 acres of land, the stud of horses, harness and other equipment.


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The trust had received a major setback in July when the Heritage Lottery Fund declined to give a £2.8million grant for the £4m project.

The trust said yesterday that the agreement to buy the stud represented a major step forward and it could concentrate on building an education and heritage centre.

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This would help to deliver a wide range of educational programmes involving conservation, the environment and the rural heritage, and the provision of practical training in rural craft skills and animal management.

''Creating a visitor attraction will generate the income required to maintain the operation at Hollesley and this in turn will increase the number of jobs available and help revive this rural area by fostering eco-tourism and encouraging inward investment.

''The public will also have greater access to the horses and the 180 acres of land will provide an area for people to enjoy and careful landscaping will increase biodiversity,'' said the trust.

Philip Ryder-Davies, chairman of the trust, said: ''Failure to obtain Heritage Lottery funding has undoubtedly made our task more difficult. However, the trust is determined to achieve its aims of creating an exciting and interesting visitor attraction which includes a wide range of educational and training programmes, many targeted at socially deprived young people.

''The part played by the horses in prisoner resettlement will also continue and expand. The trust now urgently needs financial support to keep the operation going until the infrastructure is in place which will accommodate paying visitors.''

John Marsh, project manager, said: ''Our plans are to build the visitor facility in stages over the next three to five years as grant money and other income is secured to pay the capital costs.''

From April 1 the trust will be responsible for all the operating costs at the stud and the trustees have launched a support group to help raise the money.

The annual subscription for Friends of the Suffolk Punch Trust will be £20 and details can be obtained from the trust's registered office Wren House, Manor Farm, Bridgham, Norwich. NR16 2RX. Donations are also welcome and a leaflet and gift aid form are available from this address.

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