The 2009 Planning Application
Council say 'NO' to Horkesley Park
At the meeting
on 26 May 2011, the CBC Planning Committee supported
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
Newsflash for full account
since April 2010
following additional documents lodged by Bunting and Sons in
relation to the Horkesley Park Application:
Memorandum dated 08 February 2011 ref KSB/314 with attachment
Food Experience Vers 2.2 dated 12 January 2011.
Horticultural Experience Vers 2.2 dated 12 January 2011.
for the Lecture Theatre, Exhibition Area etc., at Horkesley
Park, Version 3 dated 12 January 2011.
comments on these can be seen in our letter
to CBC dated 2 March 2011 (pdf 69Kb).
important documents have recently come into the Public Domain
concerning Horkesley Park. These are:
on comments on Horkesley Park (application 090231) from Strategic
Policy and Regeneration (SP&R). Document is
undated but appeared on the CBC web site on January 21st
Bird & Axon, Horkesley Park Planning Application Review. Dated
November 2010. Appeared on web site on January 21st 2011.
England letter to CBC dated 17th January 2011.
on these can be found on our Newsletter
Lichfield and Partners Report commissioned by Colchester Borough
Council finally published. SVAG produced details of our analysis
of this document (click to view pdf 32Kb).
Buntings responded with a 406 page document. The NLP Report and
Buntings response can be found on the Colchester
Borough Council website (dated 7 & 13 July).
formal response to these was given in a letter to CBC. Our letter
sets out our full support for the NLP report and the many reasons
why the Bunting document is misleading and should be set to one
side. Click to view: Response
letter to CBC (pdf
150Kb). Attachments: Spreadsheet
of Horkesley Park attractions (pdf
from ADAS (pdf
Horkesley Park Proposal
change.... Figures and a few details may have changed,
but the “new” Horkesley Park of 2009 is little altered from the
heritage experience lambasted in a Country Life editorial in 2006
a brief summary below of the key facts of the proposal, and a general
view of our objections. Our objections
are formally detailed
in the Response above. If you are concerned and wish to read more about
the Buntings’ proposal , you have a right to see the Proposal in
full at the Colchester Borough Council offices in Angel Court, High St,
Colchester. It comprises several thousand pages of information. We have
one copy of the full document only. You can also see details on the Colchester
Borough Council website on www.colchester.gov.uk/planning and you can
request a copy on CD for which you will have to pay.
We believe that this Application must be fought at all costs if we
are to preserve the peace and beauty of the Dedham Vale and the
who live here.
The planning officer at Colchester Borough Council dealing
with this proposal is:
Mr Alistair Day, Colchester Borough Council , PO Box 889 , Town Hall
, Colchester CO1 1FL . He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
However we must inform you that the deadline for letters of objection
from the public is now passed.
you know about Buntings’ ‘Save the Suffolk Punch’ petition?
We first reported this in a newsflash on 8th March 2009 (click here)
Buntings have since supplemented this spurious petition with a further
mailed petition. They claim the signatures amassed (some of which may be
duplicated) show public support of 22:1. We have written to CBC in protest
to this, indicating our belief that letters received by demonstrate a 3:1
level of Objection.
of individual letters received by CBC:
“ A celebration of the English Countryside through the themes of Agriculture & Food,
Art & Culture, and Countryside & Conservation.”
- Total visitors
forecast: 485,000 in opening year.
- A zoned Heritage
Centre with a number of ‘heritage’ features ranging from
interactive life and times of John Constable to local dialect studio.
- 48,188 sq ft
covered Garden Centre, Food Experience and ancillary buildings.
- Café and
restaurant facilities with capacity for over 787 covers.
- The Chantry Gallery
and Gardens. Chantry gallery claiming to display works by John Constable
and other artists of the region.
- Country park
area and playground.
- Suffolk Punch
- Area is 117 acres
along London Road Great Horkesley and running down into the hidden
valley to Little Horkesley.
- Existing footpaths
will be fenced in to prevent the access of genuine ramblers to the
- Open 364 days
per year from 10.00am to 6.00pm. (We are allowed a day of peace on
- Scheduled to open in 2011.
- Entrance to the
Heritage Centre including Garden Centre and Grounds will be by ticket – fee
up to £10.95 per person.
- Financial viability
of the project depends on income and profit from the garden centre,
food experience and restaurants.
- Said to create
155 full-time equivalent jobs on site when operational. At the same
time it will displace 178 jobs in existing businesses but also create
about the same number of ‘secondary‘ jobs.
Buntings claim that the Horkesley Park will be a ‘Celebration of the
English Countryside through the themes of Agriculture & Food, Art & Culture,
and Countryside and Conservation’. We believe that Horkesley Park is
in reality a retail scheme dressed up as a Heritage and Conservation Centre.
Most of the revenues will come from garden centre and food sales as well as
the extensive restaurant facilities and entry fees. We question whether the
other ‘attractions’ described in the Proposal are sufficient in
themselves to create a major tourist attraction.
Council has declared it a Departure Application. This means that it
is outside the guidelines of the current Borough Plans. If CBC were
to find in favour, the decision would require endorsement (or otherwise)
by the Regional Office of Government.
Key Objections to the 2009 Proposal
to Dedham Vale
site from across Horkesley valley. On the horizon, from left to right:
the gardens of The Chantry, the tower of All Saints’ Church, and
the existing greenhouses behind a screen of poplars. Most of the land running
down the hill will be fenced off as Country Park, with car park to right
are privileged to have the beautiful Dedham Vale on our doorstep,
England’s smallest and most fragile Area of Outstanding
Natural Beauty (AONB). It is our responsibility to protect the
integrity of this AONB for future generations. Most of the proposed ‘heritage
park’ lies within the protected area, only the main buildings
falling outside of it. If the Application were to proceed, it
would change the Dedham Vale for ever. This must not be allowed
letter of objection from The Joint Advisory Committee to the
Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley
Project on the Dedham
Vale & Stour Valley Project website or the Colchester
Borough Council website.
See letter of objection from The Dedham Vale Society (letter
to CBC pdf 84Kb)
AONB is subject to the most rigorous planning at national,
regional and local levels. Most recently this was reinforced
by the Core Development Strategy adopted by Colchester Borough
Council in December 2008.
huge development would destroy the unspoilt character of the
AONB. The traffic that it generates would have a major impact
on all the surrounding area. The effect on both the landscape
and on the quality of life of all who live here will be severe
and wholly negative. It will destroy the peace and quiet of
the countryside it is supposed to be celebrating, particularly
Associates, who prepared the Bunting’s Proposal, also
prepared an earlier published document for the AONB in which
they say ‘....it is the absence of public awareness and
pressure that has preserved much of the charm of the Vale,
contributing to its timeless, quiet and undiscovered character’.
The new Proposal clearly flies in the face of this. Such contradictory
statements made by the same professional consultants when working
for different clients are impossible to reconcile.
to view full image (pdf 1.8Mb)
As shown the majority of the proposed heritage park site lies within the
AONB (outlined in purple). The original Horkesley Park is north of the
from one of the letters received by CBC that it is a historical accident
that the hilltop site was excluded from the
AONB and that the glasshouses were allowed to be built there. A
letter to CBC (pdf 278Kb) from
a retired farmer states his memory that at the time this was an extraordinary
a very specific
agricultural purpose. No other use should be acceptable for the site.
A fragile ecology
While the Application
as described generally conforms to countryside policy, it is
disingenuous to suggest that the sheer numbers of visitors and
traffic will not have an adverse impact on the local ecology.
Areas of the river valley in close proximity to the site are
designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and County Wildlife
Sites and are a haven for rare plants and wildlife including
otters, dormice and kingfishers. A
letter to CBC (pdf
435Kb) from the wife of a retired local farmer with
fifty years’ experience of life in the valley eloquently
describes our concerns.
The area defined
as Horkesley Park in the Application is entirely on the hilltop,
despite the fact that elements of the 'heritage' displays
concern river transport and the building of Stour lighters. Buntings
have acquired a strip of land connecting the hilltop to the meadows they
own alongside the river Stour, and grassed this land over into a 'green
lane'. They own further river frontage just a few hundred yards away
at the Anchor Inn in Nayland. It is conceivable that a desire may arise
in the future to connect these tracts of land, creating a 'Buntingland'
that reaches continuously from Great Horkesley to Nayland and along the
river. A mass visitor presence here could be highly detrimental to the
Buntings claim that
there is a need for a major tourist attraction to relieve the pressure
on tourist ‘honey pots’ in the AONB (Flatford Mill and
,Dedham in particular). We strongly contest this. An artificial ‘countryside
experience’ as proposed by Buntings is simply not needed. If
people want to visit the countryside and the Stour Valley they can
access the real thing freely any day through the hundreds of miles
of footpaths and bridleways that already exist. They can visit local
pubs, buy local produce from real farm shops, and have tea at small
tea rooms run by local people. They don’t need what they already
have for free taken away from them, packaged up and served back to
them with an entry fee.
The National Trust
has written a letter
to CBC (pdf
an unreserved objection to the Application. It describes it as an unwarranted
development, inappropriate, unsustainable and out-of-scale, detrimental
to the landscape on many counts. Specifically, it believes that rather
than relieving pressure on the Trust’s ‘tourist honeypots’ it
will increase it, causing ‘huge traffic problems’.
See also a lettter
of objection from the writer and historian Dr Ronald Blythe (letter
to CBC pdf 249Kb).
free countryside that most of us want (left) and the controlled
and branded experience that Buntings appear to want to give
us (right). On land belonging to the Anchor Inn Heritage Farm,
unsympathetic posting grants permissive access and at the same
time gives promotional detail on the Buntings’ enterprise. Click
here to read this sign (pdf 212KB)
The real Constable heritage is the landscape itself
link with John Constable is tenuous. There is no direct historical
link between the site and his work and no evidence has yet been given
that Horkesley Park will have any works of note by Constable or other
well-known regional artists on show. Constable is properly celebrated
at very well run and popular Flatford Mill Centre (run by the National
Trust) which was his true home.
See letter of
objection from Gainsborough's House, Sudbury (see
letter to CBC pdf
See letter of objection from John Constable, great-great-great grandson of the
letter to CBC pdf 73Kb)
heart of the site lies All Saints’ Church,
a Grade One listed medieval church which is in use with regular services.
highly inappropriate that the church and its ancient graveyard should
become surrounded by a commercial park. The development would severely
compromise its exceptionally beautiful setting.
All Saints’ Church:
stranded in the centre of the commercial development?
medieval street plan is already under severe pressure from traffic.
to the Anchor Inn park any which way they can - a sign of
things to come? Click
here to see more
in Nayland as Satnav directs a low-loader through the narrow
Hill will inevitably be used as a main route to the site.
The Plan anticipates
485,000 visitors in the first year of operation. If this were to be
so, we believe that the huge increase in traffic will be the element
that will have the greatest adverse impact on the quality of life in
Peak traffic flows
are anticipated on summer weekends, which are the time when the peace
and tranquillity of the Dedham Vale is most treasured. Villages in
the area, particularly Nayland with its medieval street plan, will
be subjected to potential summer grid-lock.
Although the Buntings
claim that most access will be from the A12 in Colchester via the A134,
it will be impossible to control how people will arrive and leave from
the site. SATNAVS are commonly used and all the feeder roads are likely
to experience considerably more traffic than they do now, whether it
be the Higham route from the Ipswich direction, the Eight Ash Green
route or the Bakers Lane route from the A12 from the London direction.
Won’t the SATNAVS anyway direct them not to the Buntings’ site
but to Littlegarth School, the historic Horkesley Park, which is correctly
shown as such on current Ordnance Survey maps? What chaos!
Our narrow lanes
and village roads are overloaded already. They cannot support the considerable
increase in traffic volume. Specifically, Fishponds Hill, directly
adjacent to the site, is a Protected Lane, subject to Planning constraint
against increase in vehicular traffic. Through the wider area, peak
summer traffic will cause severe disruption to the access required
by local farmers and to genuine rural activities, and present a real
danger to our children, horse riders and cyclists.
and small businesses at risk
Buntings argue that
their Heritage Centre will directly create 155 FTE (Full Time Equivalent)
jobs on site once it is operational. They also claim that there will
be other additional jobs created in the local and regional economy
but offset by over 170 jobs lost in other businesses by ‘displacement’.
The Heritage Centre
jobs will only arise if they get the numbers of visitors forecast (which
must be highly questionable). We can however be sure that that a development
on this scale will severely damage many already-existing local small
businesses – garden centres, tea rooms and farm shops – that
will find themselves in competition. These small businesses operate
on a scale that is currently viable and is entirely sustainable and
a benefit to the valley and the community. The Heritage Centre will
be like a giant supermarket arriving on their doorstep and could wipe
Although this is
an issue that may not be directly considered in the planning process,
we should all be concerned about it. It is stated that the garden centre
is intended to be the financial anchor for the whole Horkesley Park
project. What if visitor numbers are not as forecast, if garden centre
sales and restaurant receipts are not great enough to keep the project
afloat? Surely the only way to increase income will be through expansion
of these commercial and retail elements: more and more shops.
The visitor numbers
which form the basis of the business plan are highly questionable.
have come up with a figure of 485,000 visitors for the 2009 Application
and yet in the 2005 Application they gave us a figure of 762,812,
all for very much the same offering. There are evidently some
major margins for error in both Applications.
numbers recorded at other local attractions indicate that even
a figure of 485,000 visitors in the first year of operation
is highly optimistic. Colchester Zoo is the only local attraction
that approaches this figure. They have a well-known and very
attractive family offering, and it has
taken them a full twenty years to build their business up to this level.
really is the Horkesley Park offering for the average modern family?
Will it work? And what will happen if it doesn’t?
For a quick comparison, we have obtained these annual visitor
figures from already established tourist attractions. (All taken
from recently published reports or direct statements.)
Whipsnade Animal Park
Barleylands Farm Museum
How does what Buntings have on offer compare
they state admission charges almost as high as those for safari
parks: at £10.95 for country park, £6.95 for garden
or £14.95 combined. Do their figures really add up?
SVAG’s own senior financial experts and independent consultants
have now made a detailed analysis of Buntings’ figures and have
concluded that Buntings’ visitor numbers and estimates of revenue
are grossly overstated and that Horkesley Park is not a viable project
in any way. (see SVAG report above)
Stour Valley taken from Gravel Hill, Nayland. Noise and light pollution
will affect the tranquil village of Nayland, which is overshadowed
by the site on right horizon.
The Application makes
no mention of the noise generated by people. The valley to the north
of the site is exceptionally quiet at present and individual voices
can be clearly heard across it. The country park and playground will
generate considerable noise in the summer months for those who live
in Little Horkesley.
There is virtually
no light pollution from the site at present. The new Centre would inevitably
have security lighting for the car parks and the main buildings showing
after dark. Any evening events that may be held in the two
storey central building will inevitably create light pollution across the valley.
The Planning Application falls within Category D2, Assembly and Leisure.
Once granted, this would theoretically give licence for all kinds of
leisure activities that might be introduced in the future. Further activities
within the development would be hard to control . In particular, if the
project in its original form were to fail (as our reports suggest it
would) the developers would find it necessary either to increase its
commercial elements or sell it on.
might Buntingland go from here?
Let’s stop it now!