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Horkesley Park Planning Meeting

About 400 NO campaigners filled the Charter Hall on 28th February
for a marathon planning meeting and a brilliant decision!
Here are some pictures of the event.
If anyone has more pictures, please send them in.

Planning Meeting 2013
Say No campaigners start arriving at the meeting

Planning Meeting 2013

Planning Meeting 2013

Planning Meeting 2013

Planning Meeting 2013
Where there's a Will there's a way

Totals of supplementary letters received by CBC
17 January - 14 February 2013:

Against: 283
  In support: 4


Totals of individual letters received by CBC at 12 October 2012:

Against: 827
  In support: 365

Objectors include: The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Joint Advisory Committee, CPRE Essex, Suffolk Preservation Society, Parish Councils of Little Horkesley, Leavenheath, Stoke‐by‐Nayland, and Statford St Mary. The Dedham Vale Society, Colne Stour Countryside Association, Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society, Beehive Residents Association, Nayland Parish Council has also voted to object.

Informed opinion is strongly against Horkesley Park.


The 2009 Planning Application

Colchester Council say 'NO'   The 'NO' Demonstration
Letters of Objection

Buntings' Mailshot to Schools
The Information War   Easter Monday Rally
Buntings' 2007 Petition   Posters
Buntings’ Pre-Paid Postcards   SVAG Meeting 26 March 2010


Colchester Council say 'NO' to Horkesley Park

At the meeting on 26 May, the CBC Planning Committee supported their officer's recommendation for refusal.

Eleven to one against the application!

The Moot Hall was packed with around 170 SVAG supporters and 50 Bunting family members and employees. The Anchor was closed so that the staff could attend! The Hall was full to capacity and at least a further 50 SVAG supporters were unable to get in and turned away at the door.

There were 25 speakers in all, against and in favour of the Application. Those speaking against included Dr John Constable, representatives of the Dedham Vale Society, the Colne-Stour Association, the Suffolk Preservation Society, CPREssex, the Dedham Vale Project, Nayland and Wissington Conservation Society, Nayland and Little Horkesley Parish Councils, SVAG, and others. Speakers for the application included the Buntings' traffic, landscape, tourism and planning consultants, members of the Bunting family and other individuals. Stephen Bunting said that one and a half million pounds had been spent developing the project. His planning consultant Edward Gittins said that the planning officer's report was 'confusing and flawed', and legally 'unsafe', and asked for deferment. These charges were refuted point by point by CBC speakers.

Members of the committee spoke briefly before going to a vote. The issues that had influenced them most in ther decision appeared to be traffic, sustainability and the beauty of the landscape and the preservation of the tranquillity of the AONB. Some had been deeply influenced by seeing the landscape on their site visit on a beautiful May evening, some by Great Horkesley church. (Councillor Ford was impressed by the sense that this was a site that had experienced '700 years of tranquillity')


To everyone who has supported us in this long battle, we must say, well done, and thank you!

SVAG chairman Will Pavry has received this very positive letter of support from South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo:

Dear Will

Please find attached a copy of the letter I have sent to the Chief Executive of Colchester Borough Council expressing my strong objections to the Horkesley Park proposal.

It is of the upmost importance that Colchester Borough Council is aware of how controversial this proposal is and I congratulate you and the rest of the Stour Valley Action Group for organising the meeting tonight in order to prepare for the meeting on 26 May.

It will be hard for the Planning Committee to ignore the significant degree of local concern this application has provoked if it is sitting right in front of them. I therefore urge as many as possible to attend the meeting and wish you good luck in presenting the arguments with the professionalism that the action group has portrayed from its start.

Lastly I can confirm that Bernard Jenkins and I will request that the Secretary of State calls in this application for a full public inquiry if it becomes necessary to do so.

Yours, Tim

On Sunday, May 15th, we made our final demonstration against the plan
click to see what happened plus more on the Press page

Colchester Borough Council's Planning Committee report for the Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre planning application has been placed on their planning website. To view click here, then choose 'Planning Committee Agenda 26/5/2011'

Alistair Day, the Principal Planning Officer from Colchester Borough Council, has recommended REFUSAL for the application. This is a major milestone for us, however the battle has not yet been won and we still need your support at The Town Hall for the Planning Committee Meeting on the 26th May.

On Sunday, May 15th, we made our final demonstration against the plan

Saying NO

If it is built, Horkesley Park will charge for entry. The public footpaths that currently cross through open fields above the valley will be fenced in.

Protesters took this opportunity to walk the paths and be in the countryside for free, while it is still FREE!

We estimate that around 300 people turned up for the demonstration, meeting at 11am on London Road, Great Horkesley, right beside the development site, and walking the short distance along the footpaths to the hayfield beneath Great Horkesley Church. The valley there is a living Constable - oak trees, hayfield, the church tower on the crest of the hill. On the hayfield we formed a chain to write our human NO:

  • NO to the commercialisation of Constable Country
  • NO to a shopping centre ruining our AONB
  • NO to the traffic and the noise
  • NO to the exploitation of our heritage and the loss of real rural life


It was a beautiful morning and we all agreed that there is one thing for which we must thank the Buntings: for bringing us together in the SVAG campaign, reinforcing rural community and giving us a glorious cause for a Sunday morning out in the countryside!

This was a real and true expression of what people in this area feel about Horkesley Park, in contrast to the lie that is the Buntings' Petition, gathered before the Application even existed and under the pretence that it was all about the Suffolk Punch.

After May 26, if the Council does the only rational thing and rejects this dishonest application, we hope to come back here and write ‘YES!’

A few quotes:

Annette Pettit, Great Horkesley: "We've walked these fields for 25 years.I've even seen a grass snake here, and muntjac deer and roe deer, and foxes.I've picked the blackberries and counted the grasses."

Gary Pettit. "It's so peaceful down there. I can't imagine what it will be like with all the people and the noise."

Bea Alabaster: "They say it's sustainable. 'Sustainability' is just a buzzword that ticks the box. They say they'll put a meadow on the roof. What about the meadow on the ground?"

Saying NO

AONB Cofin

Walking the footpaths
Click for more photos of the demonstration (pdf 146Kb)

" I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of retail outlet tills "

apologies to Wordsworth


Letters of Objection

Buntings' Mailshot to Schools
The Information War   Easter Monday Rally
Buntings' 2007 Petition   Posters
Buntings’ Pre-Paid Postcards   SVAG Meeting 26 March 2010


Totals of individual letters received to date by CBC:

Against: 1226
  In support: 418


Letters of Objection

From these many hundreds of letters we have picked out a few that are especially notable and whose writers – either individuals or organisations – speak with particular knowledge or authority.

National Trust:
"The National Trust considers that although the visitor numbers have been substantially reduced in this proposal compared to the last one, the application should still be rejected as being completely out of scale and of an inappropriate nature and location. It would also be just as likely to have the potential to irreparably damage the tourist locations within the Dedham Vale which the National Trust and partners have striven so long and hard to cherish."
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 27Kb)

Natural England
“In planning terms this sensitive location straddling the AONB seems to be at odds with a major development in the absence of a clear need and consideration of alternative sites… We do not believe a case has been made which has effectively rejected the alternative sites which would otherwise be acceptable.”

(for full text, see letter on Colchester Borough Council website)

Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Joint Advisory Committee:
his application has the potential to have several adverse affects on the AONB … in terms of scale; landscape; transportation and tourism issues, on conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Dedham Vale AONB and therefore the application should be refused.
(for full text, see letter to CBC on the Dedham Vale & Stour Valley Project website or the Colchester Borough Council website)

Dedham Vale Society:
"This development should be refused on the grounds of its inappropriate scale, its impact on the AONB in all its aspects - including the natural beauty of the landscape and setting of All Saints, Great Horkesley, a Grade 1 listed church – because of its implications for traffic growth on the A134 and in the lane network of the Vale, the displacement of jobs and because it is in an inappropriate site for a retail development."
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 84Kb)

“The proposed heritage centre proposals are completely incompatible with your Council’s policies to safeguard this landscape and its quiet enjoyment.”
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 178Kb)

Suffolk Preservation Society:
“ The proposal is significant in size and appears to offer local people little except disruption, increased noise, loss of tranquillity and a reduction in the quality of their environment. It fails to accord with and is in fact contrary to the Development Plan.”
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 3Kb)

Dr Ronald Blythe:
"My reason for objecting to the above application is primarily that the cultural aspects of it could not be supplied by the Horkesley Park Heritage and Conservation Centre, and that in any case all the things which it promises are already present, and professionally offered to the public… Heritage” and “Conservation” have little to do with the proposed scheme which is really that of a theme park, restaurant, car park, entertainment centre etc. This is not the place for such a project."
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 249Kb)

Gainsborough's House:
In conclusion, the application for a Heritage site at Little Horkesley does not appear to be a serious attempt to establish a genuine and professionally-run arts centre at this venue and, as a result, Gainsborough's House is not in favour of this proposal."
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 74Kb)

John Constable (great-great-great grandson of the artist)
"The site is not appropriate for a Constable gallery, and is extremely unlikely to attract loans of significant Constable works for an exhibition." “I infer that the project is vulnerable to rapid failure as a heritage park, and would need to be refocused as a dedicated major retail centre in order to survive. This failure and consequent refocus is, in my judgment, anticipated in the scale and character of the current design, a fact I find troubling.”
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 73Kb)

Colne-Stour Association:
"The views of those living in the area should be listened to. This is in substance an attempt to obtain planning permission for a merchandising, food and drink centre in an AONB under the umbrella of a heritage and conservation park."
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 36Kb)

The Soil Association
"The Horkesley Park application represents one of the most damaging examples of degradation of the countryside."
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 15Kb)

Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society:
“This is … primarily an out of town retail venue masquerading as a culture and heritage centre of which Nayland will be a victim.”
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 17Kb)

Stour Valley Action Group: (for full details of letter and appendices see Key Issues page)

Farmers' Letter:
"We ..ask that the people of colchester look beyond a cynical manipulation of the terms 'Heritage' and 'Conservation' and understand that this planning application threatens the destruction of acceptable farming land."
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 188Kb)

Small businesses letter:
“We fear that the proposed Horksley Park development will do more harm than good to the local economy. It will threaten our livelihoods, the services we offer and the very fabric of the community.”
(for full text, see letter to CBC pdf 100Kb)

Letters of objection have also been sent to CBC from Little Horkesley, Great Horkesley, Stoke-by-Nayland, Boxted, Langham, Nayland with Wissington, Leavenheath, Alphamstone and Lamarsh and Eight Ash Green Parish Councils, and Babergh District Council. These can all be seen on Colchester Borough Council's website

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo has also come out forcibly in opposition to the application:
"I am firmly opposed to this proposal. The area does not need a project on this scale and the tourism industry could be harmed not helped by too much development.
Local people will suffer the ill effects of excessive traffic and the tranquil and beautiful environment will be threatened.
This is a chance for the Council, and if necessary the Minister, to listen to the overwheming and united voice of the local community which is against this project."

North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin has asked for the application to be heard through a public enquiry led by a Government inspector. In his letter, he states: "It contravenes Colchester Council's strategic plan and meets criteria for calling in".

Grave concerns also expressed by:

The Environment Agency: Concerns on grounds of flood risk, pollution and sustainable design

English Heritage: “ What is proposed remains a substantial and still incongruous development”

Further comments and reports logged by CBC:

27 April: CBC Spatial Policy team for Planning Policy, Enterprise, Tourism & Transportation
Initial comments conclude: “it is considered that the tourism and job creation benefits of the Horkesley Park proposal have been overstated and are in any case outweighed by the negative traffic and landscape impacts of its large scale. The proposal fails to make the case set by national, regional and local planning policy for exceptional status to merit its development in a rural area.”

7 May: Suffolk County Council Environment and Transport
Preliminary findings that the proposed development would cause an unacceptable significant increase in traffic flows on the B1068 and B1087 plus increase in accidents on these roads and at their juntions with the A12. Also they do not accept that only 30% of cross visitation will be via the B1068 . Recommend provisional rejection.

11 May: Highways Agency
Important elements missing from Buntings' traffic assessment. Recommends application not considered until this information supplied.


The Information War

Many members will already know of the legal threats issued by Mr Stephen Bunting to SVAG chairman Will Pavry. (See Press page: Legal threats over tourist site claims (EADT 16/3/09), for the EADT piece and for copies of Mr Bunting and Mr Pavry’s letters.)

Suffice to say that SVAG stands by its considered opinions, which are based on a careful analysis of the mass of convoluted facts and consultants’ jargon within many thousands of pages of Application documents. SVAG will continue to say what it believes!

Buntings’ 2007 Petition

From the summer of 2006 until 2007, Buntings gathered 22,839 signatures on a mass petition in support of a previous Horkesley Park application.

Their roadshow of trailers and Suffolk Punch horses did the rounds of summer fairs, car boot sales and agricultural shows, and also spent some winter days at the Christmas market in Colchester and in the ASDA car park (as show here).

Passers-by were invited to pat a Suffolk Punch and given to believe that Buntings were doing crucial work for the survival of the breed and that Horkesley Park was key to this. After signing the petition many were given discount vouchers for meals at the Buntings’ Anchor Inn.

See for yourself the promotional leaflet handed to signatories (pdf 604Kb)
And the discount vouchers: for the spring promotion (pdf 990Kb) and the summer/autumn promotion (pdf 688Kb)

We believe the petition is questionable on two grounds:
1. Signatories have signed in support of a project that was not specified at the time of signing. Such signatures should have no more validity than, for example, any letter any member of the public might write to the Council opposing Horkesley Park before it was defined by a formal Application.
2. It would appear that the intention of many signatories was, in all probability, primarily an expression of support for the Suffolk Punch.
 We have heard from a number of people who signed the petition in support of the horses and are disturbed to see their names now used in support of the entire Horkesley Park project. Such people have also written to inform the planning officer of this.

Buntings’ Pre-Paid Postcard Campaign

Following submission of the new 2009 application, Bunting and Sons wrote to all signatories of the previous petition and asked them to reiterate their support by signing a reply-paid postcard. The letter, from Mr Stephen Bunting, stated that Buntings had been “led to believe by the Principal Planning Officer of CBC that he/CBC will not take into account the Petition in support of our planning application”.

See Letter (pdf 105Kb) and Flyer (pdf 170Kb)

It can be presumed that the majority of the signatures received by CBC as a result of these mailings must be duplications of signatures on the previous petition.

In addition, the same reply-paid postcards were also hand-delivered to at least seven villages along the valley – Bures, Higham, Nayland, West Bergholt, Great Horkesley, Leavenheath and Stoke-by-Nayland – and probably more. They were accompanied by flyers giving sketchy promotional copy about the Horkesley Park. The copy on the flyers we have received at SVAG makes no mention of retail elements, admission charges or other commercial elements of the scheme, and asks people simply to trust to broad assertions that Horkesley Park will ‘benefit the countryside’ and ‘will not cause traffic problems.’

See Flyer (pdf 278Kb) and Pre-paid postcard (pdf 123Kb)


The promotional copy in the flyers is sketchy to an extreme - Click to view (pdf 278Kb


Buntings' Mailshot to Schools

We have also been informed that a number of schools in the region have received a mailshot signed by Mr Hector Bunting asking them to write to the Council in support of Horkesley Park. His letter enumerates the various educational opportunities that Horkesley Park would provide but gives no information whatever about the commercial context in which they would be set. It is accompanied by the same brief flyer as the petition mailing above.

We have no knowledge yet on what responses, if any, have been received.

If anyone is a teacher or has a child at a school in the area, perhaps they could check this out further, and see that their school is fully informed about what is really proposed at Horkesley Park?

One local schoolteacher has sent us a copy of her own letter of objection stating:

"As a former teacher in the Colchester area and current early years advisor, I am well acquainted with existing provision which celebrates this area of outstanding natural beauty. I can see no merit in taking children to such a commercialised environment as the proposed development. Existing provision allows them to focus on art, science and nature with little or no distraction. Indeed, as a former subject leader for art, I feel strongly that Constable is better served elsewhere, in particular at Flatford Mill. The proposed venture will dilute the merit of Constable’s work by leading children to associate it with a sanitised and, probably, trivialised glimpse at what the countryside in this area meant to him."

Easter Monday Rally

"Constable Country speaks for itself", read some of the car stickers, and indeed it did. To SAY NO TO HORKESLEY PARK, the by-now-familiar posters, were added other slogans: 'Constable would have HATED it!', "Save the Stour Valley", "Bures against Buntingland". "Dedham Vale is not For Sale", the plain words 'SAY NO' on a tractor's forks, the No message painted in giant letters along the side of an articulated truck, and, most important for the protesters, the simple "SAY NO: Email by Friday".

SVAG rally brought together people of all ages and types from the length of the valley, students, the elderly, long-time residents and new ones, farmers and hauliers. There were cyclists too, and some 80 protesters with placards. Organisers hoped for 80 cars, but an estimated 200 vehicles turned up: small cars, big cars, vintage cars, land rovers, half a dozen tractors, horse boxes, the haulier's lorry, even a 1936 fire engine drawing attention to the fact that in that sort of traffic an emergency vehicle would have a hard time making its way down the A134. Click for more photos

More Rally Photos

More Rally Photos

More Rally Photos

If the Easter Monday rally demonstrated the impact Horkesley Park could have on the A134, on Good Friday the Anchor Inn Easter Egg Hunt brought its own chaos to the streets of Nayland. Some SVAG members have sent in these photos. Click to view more (pdf 257Kb)
More Photos More Photos More Photos More Photos



During the consultation period residents exercised their right to 'Say No' in Little Horkesley (above) and in Nayland (below)

The poster campaign made its mark across the countryside. Its success can best be judged by the strenuous attempts of others to take them down as we recorded in the poster removal register! (pdf 375Kb). Despite expectation to the contrary, the phantom poster puller is still at work!! On May 1 a sign was removed from Gravel Hill, Nayland.

Now that the official consultation period is at an end, we have been asked by both Colchester Borough Council and Babergh District Council to remove them from outside houses etc. See letter from Mr Vincent Pearce (pdf 24Kb)

Please make sure that you do this by May 10th or you may be in breach of local by-laws and subject to possible fines.

Posters inside houses and cars are not affected if you wish to keep them up.

SVAG meeting 25 March 2010

The message of this preparatory meeting was loud and clear to all who attended:
opposition to Horkesley Park has only strengthened with time!

There was standing room only at a meeting yesterday evening at Little Horkesley Village Hall to prepare a new protest campaign in the lead-up to the Council Hearing on Horkesley Park.

SVAG chairman Will Pavry gave a summary of the story till now and of recent developments: the delivery to CBC of a report commissioned by them from independent consultants, Nathaniel Litchfield and Partners and the completion of the long-awaited Highways Report from Buntings, meaning that the Hearing can be expected at some date within a couple of months.

Simon Oats followed with an explanation of three possible scenarios following the Council meeting: the possibility of a deferred decision; that of immediate refusal, which could be followed by various forms of appeal by Buntings; and that of approval, in which case the Application would have to be referred on to central government – though precisely where and how are unsure as the system is likely to change following the election.

Fred Grosch issued a call to action for as many people as possible to turn up and be a visible presence at the Council Hearing. This will be the last chance to make their views known directly to the Councillors. He is preparing new posters and car stickers, and highly visible badges to be worn by those attending the Hearing. New ideas for slogans would be appreciated if anybody has them! Send these direct to Fred at

Alison Shaw called for volunteers for a rapid protest group who could come together at short notice for demonstrations of photos for the press. Anyone who wants to join this group can email her at

Among those attending the meeting were a representative of CPREssex and members of the Dedham Vale Society and Colne Stour Association.

Professor James Raven, who is professor of modern history at Essex University and was born and schooled in Myland when it was still recognisably a village, spoke with vehemence about the utter speciousness of the Horkesley Park project. Prof Raven is the Lib Dem candidate for Harwich and North Essex in the coming election. Other speakers mentioned that Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, has been vocal against the proposal, and Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for North Essex, has asked for the Application to be Called In for determination by the Secretary of State.

Other open forum speakers born and bred in the area reminded us that Horkesley Park is the name of the site of Littlegarth School and remains such on the OS maps and has been hijacked for this project – this matters to people who belong here. Another was applauded when he pointed out a danger which has not received enough attention: the fact that Horkesley Park, if approved, would be the hub of a Bunting empire stretching from Westwood Park to Carter’s Vineyard in Boxted and the Anchor Inn in Nayland, with connecting traffic inevitably clogging some of the smallest rural lanes in the area. There is a map of ‘Buntingland’ on the HP Key issues page of our website or click here to view 'Buntingland' (pdf 206Kb)

There was also a discussion of visitor numbers at other national sites compared with those projected for Horkesley Park: 600,000 at Chatsworth which is perhaps the major rural heritage site in the country, 455,000 at Colchester Zoo in its best year of operation after 20 years of development, and, according to a trustee, 100,000 a year at the very real heritage site of Pembroke Castle in Wales. It was pointed out that if, as seems probable, the specious heritage at Horkesley Park fails to achieve its projected numbers, the business plan will have to be changed, or the project may fail, in which case the site could well fall into other more explicitly retail use under less planning control. Voices raised the spectre of a major retail chain taking it on!

Buntingland Map
Mrs Catherine Clouston expressed her support and made an appeal for those at the meeting to sign a petition to support a campaign against the building of 2,200+ houses between Myland and Braiswick. (The petition can also be found on the campaign website The effect of a further 2,200+ houses, if they were to be built, on the local traffic system, and particularly the A134, would be a major addition to the problems that would be created by Horkesley Park traffic!