Billingford Lakes visitor centre plans deferred by Breckland councillors

Basil Todd, owner of Billingford Lakes. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Basil Todd, owner of Billingford Lakes. Picture; Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A saga over plans to open a visitor centre at a beauty spot looks set to rumble on after councillors deferred the application.

Breckland Council's planning committee today considered Basil Todd's plans to turn an agricultural building at Billingford Lakes, near Dereham, into a display area, cafe, kitchen and toilet facilities. He also wants to install 10 camping pods and seven timber lodges.

The councillors heard how 82 members of the public had written letters of objection and representatives from three parish councils spoke to raise their concerns.

It was decided to defer the application until members of the committee had visited the site themselves.

As reported, Breckland planners last weekend reversed their earlier recommendation to refuse permission after Natural England (NE) removed its objections.

NE's change of heart came after an updated ecological report was submitted by Mr Todd. As a result, NE said 'the proposal is unlikely to have a significant effect on the European protected site' and that it was satisfied that there is 'not likely to be an adverse effect on the River Wensum SSSI and therefore the proximity to the SSSI does not represent a constraint in determining the application'.

At this morning's meeting, however, it was heard how the agricultural building in question was built without full planning permission and that there is currently an enforcement noticed served on the building. Mr Todd has appealed against the enforcement notice which is due to be decided by the planning inspectorate in June.

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During the meeting, Trevor Wood, chairman Hoe and Worthing Parish Meeting, said the 'last-minute' changes had not changed the parish meeting's views.

He said the agricultural building was 'visually intrusive' and that if planning permission were to be granted, it would 'set a precedent of building development on the river valley and that the route to success was to carry out work against policy before asking for consent'.

Mr Todd's agent expressed how concerns raised from the refused 2012 application had been addressed and that the investment in the Billingford Lakes project would boost the economy for that part of Norfolk.

The application will be considered again at a future planning committee meeting.