A FARM hit hard by Covid-19 hopes plans for an 80-pitch campsite will help the businesses - along with struggling families who cannot afford foreign holidays.

Ragmarsh Farm, in Bradfield, set up a tent only camp site on its land last year to help compensate for money lost on a burger van business due to the lockdown.

The farm created the campsite at its Shore Lane site under permitted development rights, but it has sparked concerns about the impact on the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Following objections from councillors, famer Richard Mitchell submitted formal plans for a 120-pitch site, but the plans have now been cut to just 80-pitches.

Mr Mitchell said the campsite will benefit the area.

He said: “British farming is in the doldrums - the UK farming income has fallen by £721million.

Gazette: The site was set up last yearThe site was set up last year

“This has forced us, along with 62 per cent of farms, to diversify into other revenue streams to survive as a business.

“The sad fact is if small farms like us, who farm and sustain the beautiful landscape, are unable to diversify then we will be lost and taken over by conglomerates.

“Our business overall has been decimated by Covid.

“This dramatic drop in income forced us to look at other revenue streams, so we opened a pop-up campsite using our permitted development rights.

“Last year’s campers proved they have respect for the area and just want to come and enjoy it.

“Covid has created real financial hardship for families and people are looking to spend much needed quality time together.

“Not everyone is fortunate enough to have second homes or expensive foreign holidays.”

The site and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty featured on BBC Countryfile before Christmas.

Gazette: The site is in an Area of Outstanding Natural BeautyThe site is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Mr Mitchell added: “We’ve never disputed the area is beautiful and should be protected.

“Our concern was that it was a working farm and it needed to be a two way thing.

“In order to keep the farm up and running we need to be able to develop in the same way as other farmers.

“Isn’t it time we opened up our area of natural beauty to make it more accessible to those who live a little further afield?”

Bradfield Parish Council, which opposed the application, said: “We consider the size of the proposal, its location, and the potential visitor numbers is likely to put at risk the delicate ecological balance of this area.”

It also raised concerns over the use of narrow roads, including Shore Lane and Ship Lane.

The farmers say a one-way route would resolve this issue, along with the site being tent-only, but the parish council said it would be concerned if emergency services should need to access the site.

A decision is expected to be made by Tendring Council.