The owners of a popular West Norfolk country hotel have unveiled major expansion plans for the site, including 11 new holiday homes.
Bosses of the Congham Hall Hotel claim the proposals will create dozens of new jobs if they are approved and are essential to secure the long-term future of the business.
But opponents fear the scheme could set a precedent for further development in the area.
They are also worried that it could put even more pressure on a sewerage system they claim is already struggling to cope.
The 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 adminstration facilities.
Eleven two- and three-bedroom self-catering holiday homes are also proposed to be built in parkland and woodland on the site.
During a Congham parish council planning meeting, held at the Anvil Inn on Wednesday evening, the hotel’s owner, Nicholas Dickinson, said the scheme represented the extent of his aspirations for the site in the foreseeable future.
He told members the development, which he estimated would take around three years to complete in phases, was crucial to help secure the long-term future of the hotel, which had faced financial trouble before he took it over.
And, although he insisted it was not meant to be interpreted as a threat, he maintained that none of the development could proceed without the holiday homes aspect.
He said: “I hope people will be able to appreciate the value to us all, as a community, of having an enlarged, successful, sustainably run business in our midst.”
But, although a majority of councillors supported the application, there was broad concern over the holiday homes part of the development.
Norman Grief said he did not object to the extra rooms or the new facilities for the hotel.
But he added: “I am dead against touching the parkland.”
Chairman Les Rust said he was unhappy with the plan for homes in the woodland, which he described as an established rookery that would be lost if the development proceeded.
However, he felt he couldn’t object to the entire scheme, “90 per cent of which we think is a good idea.”
Some residents’ comments already submitted to West Norfolk Council, who will ultimately decide if the application can proceed, have also raised concerns about the impact of the holiday homes.
They fear it will have an impact on wildlife and potentially set a precedent for further development in the area.
But Mr Dickinson insisted they were not trying to damage the area, revealing he was also interested in acquiring the village cricket pitch to protect it for the community, not for future development.
He said: “The parkland is perhaps the most valuable asset to our business.”
He also rejected a question from borough councillor Tim Tilbrook about the perceived lack of benefits for the area, insisting the development would create 50 new jobs. Around 100 people already work at the hotel.
He said: “I don’t think it’s fair to say the village isn’t going to get anything out of it.”
The other main area of concern relates to the potential impact of the development on the area’s sewage system.
The hotel says it would work with Anglian Water to address the known problems with the network, but accepted a solution could be “prohibitively expensive.”
But the meeting was told they were also prepared to develop their own strategy to deal with waste generated by the development, which would not feed into the main network.