'Well-designed' expansion plans for Axminster's River Cottage get the nod

PUBLISHED: 11:30 05 May 2018

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

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

Archant

A 'well-designed' application to expand Axminster's popular River Cottage has been given the green light following unanimous support from district planners.

Proposals to build a 16-bed guesthouse and cookery school at Park Farm in Musbury were backed at East Devon District Council’s development management committee last Tuesday (May 1).

The application was debated because 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. However, councillors felt it was suitable to support the planning officer’s recommendations due to the design and business success to the district’s economy.

The business is owned by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and attracts up to 18,000 people a year.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall told the meeting: “Any fears that we were trying to create a television theme park or some kind of Disney World have been alleviated down the years and I hope and I believe we have been a responsible business sustainable from an environmental point of view. I think we have sat very well in a very quiet bit of the country and I hope we have succeeded in creating something very special.

“The expansion will allow us to provide a sustainable future for our business specifically because of on-site accommodation which we have had increasing demand for down the years.”

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

Chris Rose, head of East Devon District Council’s planning team, said the application was very ‘well-designed’.

He added: “There are very successful courses, weddings and events that taken place there and there is more demand than they can currently cater for.

“There will be additional jobs that will be created through this and it will improve the facilities for those already attending the site, in terms of providing guest rooms, which means those people will not have to come and go from the site.”

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