Petition plea over Congham hotel lodges plan

Petition against Congham Hall expansion pictured front left to right Tim Tilbrook. Michael De-Whalley.Norman Grief with residents.
Petition against Congham Hall expansion pictured front left to right Tim Tilbrook. Michael De-Whalley.Norman Grief with residents.

Proposals for extra rooms and holiday lodges in the grounds of a West Norfolk country hotel would “devastate” an area of historic parkland, objectors have claimed.

Dozens have signed a petition against the proposed expansion of the Congham Hall Hotel which the area’s MP says would create a “mini Centre Parcs” in the village.

But the hotel maintains its proposals will enhance the area.

The hotel’s plans allow for the development of seven new hotel bedrooms, which would take the total number of available rooms up to 33, plus a new spa, gym and administration facilities.

Eleven two- and three-bedroom self-catering holiday homes are also proposed to be built in parkland and woodland on the site.

Although parish councillors in Congham gave guarded support to the scheme when they debated it in the spring, opponents remain worried about the potential effect on the environment.

They say the land is a precious habitat for a wide range of wildife which they fear would be ruined if the scheme proceeds.

Local borough councillor Tim Tilbrook said: “This is a wet meadow. It can be flooded for months at a time. It will have to be drained. There is so much wrong with this.

“They (the lodges) don’t have to be in the heart of unspoilt countryside.”

Grimston parish councillor Michael de Whalley added: “It will devastate this area.”

Mr Tilbrook received a petition against what it terms “the proposed building on the ancient parkland

and woodland”, which organisers say has more than 130 signatures, at the weekend.

Around 20 public comments have already been submitted to the council, though they are broadly split between objections and supporters.

However, the list of critics does include North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham who, in a letter to West Norfolk Council planners, said he supported the extra hotel rooms and facilities, but opposed the lodges.

He wrote: “The end result could be the creation of a mini Centre-Parcs.

“My personal view, which is also shared by many parishioners, is that this will be totally out of place in such a small village.”

Concerns have also been raised by groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the area’s internal drainage board.

Hotel bosses declined to comment on the petition yesterday.

But a report submitted to West Norfolk Council as part of the application maintained the landscape would be protected if the scheme is allowed to proceed.

It said: “The varied and attractive landscape around the hotel are an important part of its ‘offer’ to guests and day-visitors to the Spa.

“A key objective of the development plan is to preserve and enhance these green spaces.”

It admitted some trees would be removed as part of the work, but insisted that more trees would be planted than the number removed in their place.

It also says the development would avoid areas where great crested newts, which are a protected species, are thought to be present.

The report added: “The wide expanse of the existing parkland will be preserved, and will continue to be managed by grazing.

“The existing pond will be tidied up, and free of trampling by livestock will be enhanced as an aquatic habitat.”