Proposals for a major expansion of facilities at a West Norfolk hotel would only have a “limited detrimental impact” on the area, a planning report has concluded.
Critics of the planned development at Congham Hall claim the project would destroy an area of historic parkland, which offers a vital habitat for a wide range of wildlife.
But officials have recommended the scheme is approved by the borough council’s planning committee when it meets next Monday, July 31.
Their report, published on Friday, acknowledged the scheme was a “signficant” expansion of the hotel’s operations.
But it said: “The layout, scale and appearance of the various phases of development have been well considered and provides an overall scheme that only has a limited detrimental impact upon the wider landscape setting.”
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 administration facilities.
Eleven two- and three-bedroom self-catering holiday homes are also proposed to be built in parkland and woodland on the site.
The hotel says the scheme will create at least 30 new jobs, though the report suggests the final figure could be as high as 44, and provide a significant boost to the local economy, because of its policy of almost exclusively engaging local suppliers.
It also claims the development would provide “proactive management” of the site’s woodland areas.
Although there is broad support for the extra bedrooms and hotel facilities, the lodge proposals have attracted widespread opposition.
Scores of people have signed a petition against building work taking place on the parkland itself, which was presented to ward councillor Tim Tilbrook last month, while local MP Sir Henry Bellingham claimed the application would create a “mini Centre Parcs” if it was approved.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has also objected to the scheme, while the Open Spaces Society warned it would be “damaging to the historic character and unspoiled beauty of the parkland.”
But planners said permission could be granted, subject to suitable conditions being imposed relating to ecology, lighting, drainage and roads issues.
The report continued: “Given the landscape features on the site and the height of the cabins and their siting, the most public view of the site, from Broadgate Lane and the public footpath that runs north to south across the site will not see all the development within one particular view point.
“The layout and scale of the development has been very carefully considered by the architect. Little of the feeling of openness is encroached upon by structures.
“It is therefore considered that the design and the use of planning conditions ensure that the sense of tranquillity and peacefulness is conserved and the landscape setting is preserved.”