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MP George Freeman weighs into debate on application to build visitor centre at Billingford Lakes in Mid Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 14:06 31 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:01 31 March 2017

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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An MP has written to Breckland Council raising concerns over controversial plans for a visitor centre at a lakeside beauty spot, which could be granted planning approval next week.

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt

An application for a visitor centre, campsite, outdoor recreation centre and eight holiday lodges at Billingford Lakes, close to North Elmham, between Dereham and Fakenham, goes before Breckland Council’s planning committee on Monday recommended for approval.

The applicant is Wensum Valley Hotel, Golf and Country Club in Taverham, run by the family of the late Basil Todd, a well-known entrepreneur who bought the Billingford site as a disused gravel pit in 2010 but was unable to realise his visitor centre vision before his death in 2015.

The applicant says it will raise the profile of Dereham and Breckland as a holiday destination and provide employment and economic benefits.

But there have once again been concerns raised from surrounding parishes, particularly on increased noise, light, traffic and potential impact on wildlife.

Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt Billingford Lakes. Picture: Ian Burt

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has submitted a letter to Breckland Council raising concerns.

In it, he states: “As you will be aware, this has been a particularly controversial matter for quite some time and a third application has now been submitted.

“Having recently attended a meeting with concerned residents and listened to their views, I feel that they have raised a number of important points that require your full consideration.”
He added: “Residents question why, given that this application has previously been thrown out and that enforcement action has already been ordered by the Planning Inspectorate, a third application has been allowed to take place.”

Mr Freeman’s letter goes on to say: “As I understand it, in July, CAPITA’S own ecologist wrote that the new application would contravene ecological legislation and be incredibly damaging to local wildlife.”

It continues: “The likes of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Wensum Valley Bird Watching Group are all against this application, highlighting the damaging effect it will have on the area...local residents are worried that this third application will pave the way for further development, potentially industrial, which is out of keeping with the area.”

A Breckland Council planning officer’s report to members of the planning committee states that comments from the public are split, with 19 people in support and 44 objecting.

Supporters say the scheme will provide employment opportunities, educational and conservation benefits and will be an asset to the area.

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