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Huge outdoor activities lake at home of radar approved after lengthy negotiations

PUBLISHED: 16:00 23 November 2019

Bawdsey Manor 

Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Bawdsey Manor Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Creation of a huge lake for outdoor activities at one of Suffolk's most historic and best-known landmarks has been given the go-ahead after months of negotiations and opposition.

Bawdsey Manor - now used as a summer camp base Picture: KNIGHT FRANKBawdsey Manor - now used as a summer camp base Picture: KNIGHT FRANK

The project will see a 14,700sq m lake excavated in the grounds of Bawdsey Manor, where the radar vital to winning the Battle of Britain was developed in the Second World War.

Today the manor and extensive estate is owned by PGL, a national children's adventure and summer camp company.

It applied to East Suffolk Council for the lake to provide canoeing and raft building opportunities for guests, adding extra adventure activities alongside existing ziplines, climbing walls and abseil towers.

The venture will comprise of 10,670sq m of open water, 1,060 sq m of islands and 2,970sq m of reed beds and have a maximum depth of 1.5m. It will feature 12 activity layout areas around the edge, eight of which are proposed to be canoe base areas.

Bawdsey Manor played a critical part in the war effort, hosting the team that developed radar to help win the Battle of Britain Picture: MIKE PAGEBawdsey Manor played a critical part in the war effort, hosting the team that developed radar to help win the Battle of Britain Picture: MIKE PAGE

However, the project received objections from residents and Bawdsey Parish Council, and also Suffolk Preservation Society, which voiced concerns over noise likely to be created by the proposed activities on and around the lake as well as the visual impact of the lake on the "tranquil marsh landscape".

After receiving amended plans for the project addressing a number of the concerns raised and further negotiations with interested parties, East Suffolk Council has now formally issued planning consent for the scheme.

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A number of conditions will apply including that not more than 80 people will use the lake at one time.

Bawdsey Manor seen in the late evening sun from the Felixstowe Ferry side of the River Deben Picture: GRAHAM MOSSBawdsey Manor seen in the late evening sun from the Felixstowe Ferry side of the River Deben Picture: GRAHAM MOSS

In a report, senior planning and enforcement officer Michaelle Coupe said the proposal was a "finely balanced one".

She said: "The significant financial commitment which is required to maintain assets of this status alongside the substantial and long term investment needed to stop Bawdsey Manor being destroyed by coastal erosion represents an important material consideration which must be weighed in the planning balance.

"The acquisition of the estate by PGL has protected it from further piecemeal disposal which has unfortunately occurred historically. The use of the site by PGL as an outdoor educational/activity centre makes good use of the site providing a comprehensive use for the existing buildings and parks and gardens, helping to preserve these important historical assets.

"The proposed lake is crucial for the company to remain competitive in the market and attract the level of guests need to make the business successful and thereby being able to secure the site's long term protection/preservation."

The lake had been designed to look as natural as possible within the AONB and have a minimal impact and would create new wildlife habitat. Council officers have also highlighted enhancement work being done elsewhere on the estate.

PGL said its most successful operating model is based on outdoor adventure activities taking place in the grounds of its centres. Travelling to different locations for such activities reduces activity and learning time, adds travel cost for customers and extra administrative costs, and increases local traffic volumes.

Natural England withdrew its objection after being satisfied that the revised plans would have no impact on species in the Deben estuary.

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