CHESHIRE East Council has approved plans to create a new adventure playground in Tatton Park.
The authority's strategic planning board met last Wednesday, at Macclesfield Town Hall, to discuss plans put forward by Bure Valley Adventures Ltd.
After discussing the matter for more than two hours, councillors decided to give the BeWILDerwood application the green light.
However, due to the complexities of the approval the decision will now go before the Planning Inspectorate before any building work can start.
The Norfolk-based company will be handed a £5million loan from the council to ensure the development can be created.
Before last week’s decision, councillors considered a 65-page planning officer’s report and heard from numerous public speakers of conflicting stances.
During the debate, councillors expressed mixed views on the application.
Clr Paul Edwards, sitting on the committee, opposed the application adding: “I have a lot of problems with this. Knutsford has no public buses to Tatton Park and all the people you want to attract – young people, kids, and families – are the ones who can’t afford it or have no access to a car. It is an elitist place to go.”
Committee members Clr Brendan Murphy and Clr Chris Thorley also asserted their objection to the application.
“The balance is between a planning decision and a financial decision. I feel this is a lazy and easy way out for Tatton,” said Clr Murphy.
"To approve this would be tantamount to the council selling applications.
"There is nothing to be lost financially by refusing this but by approving a lot will be lost – the impact on the character, history and legacy of Tatton Park."
Clr Thorley echoed Clr Murphy’s concerns and said the development was ‘all about the money’.
Other councillors spoke in favour of the application such as, Clr David Brown, deputy leader of CEC, who said the new development will 'help make a name for Tatton and Tatton Park'.
Clr John Hammond said he was on the fence to begin with but fully supported of the application after careful consideration. “The additional funds will go back into conserving the park and improve facilities. You have to move with the times,” he added.
A proposal was agreed in that the application should be referred to the Secretary of State with a recommendation to approve with conditions and subject to the completion of a S106 agreement.
Ten councillors voted in favour of the proposal, with four members, Clr Edwards, Clr Thorley, Clr Murphy and Clr Janet Jackson, voting against.
A number of public speakers were present at last Wednesday’s meeting.
- Here is what some of the speakers had to say on the BeWILDerwood application.
Clr Les Gilbert, said: “Cheshire East visitor income comes to £700 million a year and Tatton Park is the jewel in the crown. We have made great strides to reduce the tax-payers’ support to the park and we would need another visitor attraction to be able to eliminate tax-payer support. BeWILDerwood would do that. I hope after today I can look forward to taking my grandchildren there.”
Clr Olivia Hunter, a regular visit to the Norfolk site, said: “It’s inspiring and innovative and a natural environment for the well-being of children of all ages. Local residents in Norfolk were against it but now accept it and regularly visit as well.”
Phillipa Meachin, Marketing Cheshire, said: "Cheshire is a pleasant and attractive place but we need to develop more places that can compete with seaside and city breaks," she said.
"BeWILDerwood would provide a new reason for visitors to come to Cheshire and would put more money into the local economy."
Knutsford Town Councillor Michael Houghton, said: “The supposed economic benefits to Tatton are very much to the disadvantage of Knutsford. BeWILDerwood restricts Knutsford's freedom of movement, economy health and wellbeing."
Steve Torkington from STAG (Save Tatton Action Group), said: “BeWILDERwood has now become the ‘financial cornerstone’ of Tatton Vision, a large-scale, long-term project, within the technical definition of a Theme Park.“A policy which reduced the status of Tatton Park to such a level would be ill-conceived and unworthy.”
Richard Reeves, Tattondale Farm, Knutsford, said: “We have huge demands on farmland in this corner of Cheshire with airport expansion, possible HS2, the A556 relief road and housing schemes. The fact that this very production land is being sacrificed when there are alternatives is of great public concern.
“If approved it would be another nail in the coffin for Cheshire farming.”