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Gazette - 27 April 2016 (pdf) or (link to online article)

Plans submitted for homes on Horkesley Park heritage centre site

Plans have been submitted for 22 homes on a site which was once set to be used as a £25million heritage centre.

Mersea Homes has submitted the plans for land off London Road, Great Horkesley, adjacent to the Church of All Saints, which currently includes dozens of disused greenhouses.

The land has been the subject of controversy for more than 13 years with a debate raging over the previous owners, Bunting and Sons, wanting to convert the area into a heritage centre.

Bunting and Sons, who wanted to dub the area as Horkesley Park, went into administration in 2014 owing £14million and the land was among assets which were sold off.

It was bought by W and H Park, a subsidiary of Pigeon Investments, which has worked with Mersea Homes in a bid to come up with a suitable scheme, which includes four affordable homes.

The Stour Valley Action Group fought hard to stop the heritage centre going ahead, fearing thousands of extra visitors would lead to the peace and tranquillity of the area of outstanding natural beauty being disrupted.

The group will be meeting next week to draft an official response, but chairman Kate Charlton-Jones cautiously welcomed the plans but wanted assurances development would not get out of control.

She said: “The Stour Valley Action Group always wanted to see the land return to being earmarked as for agricultural and the fact that position seems untenable is a matter of regret.

“I think Pigeon have been very careful and sensible in consulting with us and a number of other local interest groups.

“The plans are interesting, small scale and reasonably attractive.

“If the council does give permissions, and it is a big if, I would like to see a very strong condition imposed which guards against any further development.

“People, quite understandably, think 18 houses and four affordable homes is all well and good but it is terrifying to think down the line in five or ten years the church could be swallowed up.

“The Stour Valley Action Group fought for years to protect the area from what would have been an absolute outrage, so I would like to see a condition imposed for the protection.”

The homes range from between two and five bedrooms and have been designed to fit in with other rural estates in the surrounding area.

Colchester Council has the final say on the plans and aims to make a decision by July 19.