Committee approves plans for Congham Hall expansion

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Controversial plans for a major expansion at a country hotel have been given the green light by West Norfolk Council’s planning committee.

The committee approved the proposals following a site visit to Congham Hall yesterday, but members were divided over the idea with six voting for and five against.

There had been public objection to the proposals and a petition against the plans, describing the potential effects on historic parkland as “devastating”, which gained dozens of signatures.

The approval means bosses at Congham will be able to go ahead with their plans to erect holiday cabins and new buildings at the site in four distinct phases.

At the meeting yesterday, committee member Geoffrey Wareham said: “Having seen the building, and having seen it before, 10 or 20 years ago, I can appreciate the amount of work that has been done on the main building.

“The only way it can improve and extend, which it needs to do to sustain that development, is to complete the phases and the jobs.”

Mr Wareham said he believed the extension would be “confined to the space allocated” and not be intrusive.

He said he would vote with the recommendation to approve the plans.

But Avril Wright said: “I think it’s very unfortunate that we have to vote for this application ‘all or nothing’. I’m all for business – it’s a huge improvement.

“But I am very unhappy about what’s intended on the parkland. It’s a step too far.”

Chris Crofts said: “Three-quarters of this application I would approve of, but I shall not be voting in favour.”

Both of their comments were met with rounds of applause from the public gallery.

However, the decision was greeted with furore, with one person saying: “Shame on you.”

Following the meeting, Congham Hall owner Nicholas Dickinson said: “Regardless of how you voted, thank you for considering this application.”

However, Grimston parish councillor Michael de Whalley, who had spoken against the scheme earlier in the week, said: “With this decision, West Norfolk has opened up its countryside to developers who can build holiday lets wherever they want.”