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Horkesley Park appeal opens
6:00pm Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News
A CRUNCH planning appeal has opened today into plans to build a visitor centre in the heart of the Dedham Vale.
Bunting and Sons wants to build the £25million Stour Valley Visitor Centre in Constable Country but plans were refused by Colchester Council in February.
An appeal into the plans opened this morning at Langham Community Hall.
During the hearing, experts claimed the centre plans are not viable.
Consultants acting for Colchester Council have told a planning inquiry a travel plan put forward for getting to the attraction is flawed and visitor numbers have been vastly overestimated.
Jill Britton, of planning consultants Britton McGrath Associates, said despite Bunting and Sons’ projection of 316,000 visitors a year, the number would actually be between 100,000 and 150,000.
That scenario would cut income from the centre from a projected £3,321,836 to between £715,000 and £1,019,000.
Mrs Britton said: “The council is not satisfied the appellant has provided sufficient information to provide an appropriate level of confidence of the satisfactory delivery.
“Our evidence-based analysis indicates that, assuming capital investment takes place as currently proposed, the centre’s performance is likely to be significantly below that which has been forecasted.”
The expert’s report also said entry to the proposed centre would have to be priced at about £9, rather than £14.95 as stated in the Buntings’ business case.
She added the family’s projection of creating 146 jobs is unrealistic: “The business would be unable to afford the proposed level of staffing if our revised forecast on visitor volume and turnover were to manifest itself.”
Transport expert Christopher Hargreaves added: “The appeal site is poorly served by the more sustainable modes of transport of walking, cycling and public transport and cannot be considered accessible by these modes.”
He added although a travel plan submitted by the developers include improvements to public transport between the town centre and the site, it would be on a demand basis.
Mr Hargreaves’s analysis shows one person would use a subsidised bus every four trips between Monday and Saturday, with one in three on Sundays.
* The appeal is set to last until Friday, instead of the three weeks, which was set aside initially.