Extra time plea for Henham

PROPOSAL to transform an East Anglian country estate, which have stalled because of the recession, should be granted extra time, planning officers have recommended.

Outline planning permission for a new hotel and apartment complex to replace past halls that are no longer standing at the Henham Estate, was granted in 2007, but the economic downturn has hindered progress of the multi-million pound scheme.

The estate, which has been owned by the Rous family for 500 years, has become well-known for hosting the Latitude music festival, Grand Henham Steam Rally and Wings and Wheels event.

Hektor Rous, estate manager and son of the sixth Earl of Stradbroke, who lives in Australia, is spearheading the plans and wants to increase tourism and employment in the area.

Mr Rous’s father Keith is seeking an extension of time to the planning permission from Waveney District Council as work on the project continues.

As well as the hotel and apartment complex other features proposed include associated cafes and restaurants, business and conference facilities, beauty spa and fitness facilities, function room for weddings and lectures, an auditorium for the provision of theatre, music and cinema and sporting facilities including a pool, tennis courts and equestrian.

The application is due to be discussed at a meeting of the district council’s development control committee on Tuesday.

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In a letter of support for the project, Keith Rous says: “I am writing to you regarding the possible time limit you might put on the planning extension and would like to request the longest possible duration be applied.

“The policy behind the option to extend planning permissions was developed in response to the unprecedented collapse in the UK and world economies. Whilst some stability has returned there is still a great deal of uncertainty and projects like ours are particularly sensitive to these fluctuations in business and consumer confidence.

“I strongly believe that the council was right to support our application, and that the argument for the type of tourism and accommodation detailed in our application will help drive growth and jobs in this area in the future.

“The estate is constantly evolving and, since the application, we have added another 20,000 visitors annually and expect, within five years, to be welcoming over 100,000 people to the park for various events and tourism.”

Planning officers have recommended that outline planning permission be granted, subject to similar conditions as were previously imposed, but with a five-year period for the submission of reserved matters.

Investigations of the park have revealed a possible three halls through the centuries with the most recent built in 1791.

It was pulled down in 1953 to avoid death duties, and as part of a row about who should inherit the estate.

The previous hall, built in 1538, burnt to the ground after a drunken butler dropped a candle in the cellars.

The original pre-Tudor Henham Hall was timber-framed and had its own moat-yard, which exists in part to this day.