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Needham Lake in line for visitor centre and café after £600,000 funding given green light

A £600,000 visitor centre and café could open at Needham Lake by summer next year, after Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet gave the project the green light.

On Monday it approved up to £600,000 funding for the design and build of a complex housing catering, visitor information and public toilets.

The project would, according to a report to the cabinet, help the council to ‘secure the future of Needham Lake as a premier visitor, community and family destination’.

Proposed site for a visitors centre and cafe at Needham Lake.....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (7581086)
Proposed site for a visitors centre and cafe at Needham Lake.....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (7581086)

Currently a small kiosk serves ice cream and coffees at peak times, but has no indoor space.

Following Monday’s decision, the council will push ahead with the design and planning, and tendering processes, while it is envisaged work could start next spring with the café potentially open for the summer 2020 season.

It is envisaged the new facilities would be built near the main playground area and the café leased to an outside operator.

Specialist consultancy Concertus has carried out grounds and utility studies and developed outline designs and costings for the project.

So far, feasibility work on the project has cost £20,000, while the £600,000 fund approved this week should cover all remaining project costs.

Mid Suffolk district councillors Mike Norris and Wendy Marchant said they had been waiting a long time for the visitor centre, but that ‘at last it looks like it is finally going to happen’.

“We welcome the present proposal, which is better than what we might have visualised.

“This is just what Needham Lake needs. It will be an asset,” they said.

Cllr David Burn, Mid Suffolk cabinet member for environment, said: “It’s great to see proposals for new facilities at Needham Lake reaching the approval stage.

“Having a café included in the plans provides a much-needed community-based venue that is easily accessible to locals and visitors, while also helping to support our local economy.”

Dawn Spurling, chairman of Needham Market Town Council, said: "Needham Market Town Council welcomes the news that the Visitors Centre is finally going to be built – and quite quickly, too.

"The right building in the right place will significantly enhance visitors' experiences at the lake and will educate them about how the lake was formed and the types of wildlife they may be able to enjoy looking for.

"The visitor centre will be a great asset. Well done Mid Suffolk District Council for seeing the idea all the way through."

The 32-acre country park, which is owned and managed by the district council, is a former gravel pit from the 1970s which supplied aggregate for the construction of the A14.

It attracts more than 300,000 visitors a year. According to Visit England, in 2017 it was the second most visited free attraction in the east of England.

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