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Watlington wildlife park vision is backed by council

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An illustration of how Watlington Safari Park could look. Photo courtesy of Rural Solutions Ltd.. (5745125)
An illustration of how Watlington Safari Park could look. Photo courtesy of Rural Solutions Ltd.. (5745125)

Multi-million pound plans to develop a wildlife park in West Norfolk have been backed by councillors today.

Members of West Norfolk Council's planning committee unanimously approved proposals for the Watlington Quarry site, off Lynn Road, Tottenhill.

The decision, which is subject to the completion of legal agreements, came after members toured the site this morning, ahead of their meeting at Lynn town hall.

Site owner Edward Pope said he was "very excited" by the decision and thanked people, both locally and from around the world, who had offered their support.

He said: "It's going to be a very special place. This isn't about entertaining wild children. It's about getting close to and admiring animals in a habitat as natural as we can make it.

"I have been a conservationist all my life from when I knew how to say the word duck. It's been a passion and a love and it's a real opportunity to give everyone a special place to come and be inspired by nature."

Mr Pope did not say when he expects work to begin on the site, although the committee's decision requires a legal agreement with Norfolk County Council, regarding the maintenance of a culvert, to be completed by early April.

But he added: "There will be a lot of employment. As we develop, we'll employ more people."

Mr Pope also stressed the plan would not affect the local water table, which had been a point of some local concern and the area is regularly monitored in conjunction with the Environment Agency.

The application allows for the construction of a 2.15 metre high perimeter fence around the site, a static caravan which will serve as an office and areas for car parking and buggies, which will be used to transport visitors around the site.

Documents submitted as part of the application said a "soft" opening was planned, with limited visitor numbers, while the committee was told two tours per day, with up to 10 buggies, were planned.

Questions were raised during the debate about both the height of the fence and its position in proximity to nearby homes.

But committee chairman Vivienne Spikings said she felt a compromise could be reached to benefit all parties.

And Chris Crofts urged members not to impose additional costs that could put the whole scheme at risk.

He said: "I don't think we should make it a higher fence. It might kill the whole thing."

Terry Parish described the scheme as an "excellent idea."

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