Controversial plans for a caravan and camping site at a much-loved country park were given the go-ahead last week.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s application to build 100 pitches on a 3.21 hectare site within a ‘special landscape area’ of West Stow Country Park was approved on Thursday – by 11 to four votes – following its referral to the development control committee.
The council says the scheme will boost visitor numbers and income for the park, and will have wider economic benefits, despite having received more than 50 objections.
Speaking for residents in West Stow and on behalf of Culford, West Stow and Wordwell Parish Council, Ann Self asked for written assurances the site, if approved, would not be turned into a temporary winter travellers’ site.
She said the council should look at ways of turning its ‘loss-making enterprise into a viable one’ without destroying an open public space, suggesting things like corporate events, weddings and annual educational programmes for schools.
She added: “Within the areas of West Stow, Wordwell, Flempton and Hengrave there are four campsites, the nearest is virtually opposite the proposed site with 40 pitches and a shower block currently under construction.
“None of these are ever full. Therefore, the business model for the country park cannot be correct or sustainable.”
James Robinson agreed, saying it ‘will be taking business away from the local tourist industry, not supporting it’.
Speaking for Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Perennial, which owns the nearby Fullers Mill Garden, he said the scheme ‘does nothing for local people’ and would damage the area and its wildlife.
He said: “Nothing about dogs. One dog in the wrong place is all it takes. If the applicant was serious about nature conservation, there would be a ‘no dogs on site’ condition’.”
Ward member Susan Glossop also spoke out against using the land for a commercial venture, saying it should remain a natural site.
She added that the nearest shops and restaurants were miles away and the surrounding roads could not cope with hundreds of caravans.
Speaking in favour of the proposal, Cllr Peter Stevens said not everyone who used the site would be irresponsible and Cllr Alaric Pugh said he believed it had ‘the ability to do more good than harm’.