Expansion plans for Axminster’s River Cottage recommended for approval

The designs will be determined by district planners at a later date.

The designs will be determined by district planners at a later date. - Credit: Archant

Plans to expand the popular River Cottage - incorporating the build of a 16-bed guesthouse and cookery school - are being recommended for approval.

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Applicant James Houston lodged the plans for the development to be built close to its Axminster headquarters, at Park Farm in Musbury.

He said the propose expansion has been created to provide additional event space, cookery facilities and help secure the ‘long-term viability’ of the business.

A report to East Devon District Council’s development management committee said the proposal sought to address the ‘underestimated demand’ for on-site accommodation at River Cottage.

It adds the development would support an existing successful business which also forms a tourist attraction and supports the local economy.

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The plans also propose an events space and ‘informal lounge space’.

The reports adds: “The proposed letting rooms would offer the chefs and apprentices attending the multiple day courses on site an offer of accommodation rather than needing to travel off-site after the course has finished returning the next morning.

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“The new facilities will enable an increase in the numbers of course attendees which in turn would mean that surrounding bed and breakfasts would still benefit from the business as existing.”

The application will be debated by planning chiefs because officers note the development ‘represents a departure from the Local Plan’, as there is no specific policy that supports a proposal of such a nature within the countryside.

Recommending approval, the officer’s report said: “The benefits to the local economy, through the supply chain, increased tourism and training opportunities are considered to be significant benefits that justify a departure from Local Plan policy, particularly as the development can be adequately accommodated without detriment to the landscape, heritage assets, biodiversity interests of other matters of acknowledge public importance.”

According to the application, the cookery school will act as a ‘living room’ for the wider farm location, while the guesthouse design mirrors an existing two-storey farmhouse which makes up part of River Cottage’s current HQ.

The proposed guesthouse will accommodate people who undertake courses at River Cottage – which with other events attract 12,352 visitors annually.

Satellite Architects, who have designed the development, say the proposed buildings take their influence from ‘contemporary, light, framed agricultural structures’ to set them apart against the ‘solid historic stone buildings’.

They added: “Within the new yard, there will be a sheltered and relatively unshaded kitchen garden which will be maintained by the River Cottage team.

“On the far side of the yard allows for informal teaching, cooking and outdoor eating.”

The new development, which will be opposite the current River Cottage HQ, will link with its counterpart through an all-seasons footpath.

The path is intended to keep the space ‘wild and meadow-like’, according to the architects.

The application will be debated at the development management committee meeting on May 1.

The meeting will take place at Knowle in Sidmouth from 10am.

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