Watlington wildlife park plans move a step closer as planners recommend approval
Multi-million pound proposals to turn a former West Norfolk quarry into a safari park have been backed by planning officials in a new report, published today.
Councillors are due to visit the Watlington Quarry site, off Lynn Road, Tottenhill, next month, before they decide whether to allow the scheme to proceed or not.
But planning officers have now recommended it is approved, subject to the completion of legal agreements, despite some local opposition.
Details of the vision for the site, which it is claimed could generate around £3.5 million a year for the local economy, were first made public in a brochure distributed to local people earlier this year, before the formal planning application was submitted in September.
Documents submitted as part of the application, which are summarised in the new report, said: "“The Pope family has managed the Watlington estate for many generations. This proposal forms the latest chapter in the diversification and management of the estate and its environmental assets.
"Following cessation of quarrying activity on the application site, the site is in the process of being restored to an area for nature conservation. The site offers the chance to create the ideal conditions for animal and bird conservation."
The document suggests that, if permission is granted, there would be a "soft start" to operations, with limited visitor numbers and any further expansion governed by future planning applications.
But officers are recommending that the plan is only given the go-ahead following the completion of a legal agreement covering improvements to a nearby culvert, which the applicant would have to pay for.
Although the Watlington parish council has not objected, Tottenhill's authority has, raising concerns about traffic and the possibility of increases in noise and odour if the park were to expand.
Nineteen letters of objection have also been submitted, compared to three in support, though the applicant says no visitors would have to go through either village to get to the site.
But the plan's supporters include Watlington ward councillor, and borough council cabinet member, Peter Hodson.
He said: "I believe this is an exciting opportunity to provide a unique educational resource for the local community and in time make a meaningful contribution to the tourism and visitor economy in West Norfolk and King’s Lynn."
The application is due to be determined by West Norfolk Council's planning committee when it meets in Lynn on Monday, December 3, following a site visit.