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£50 million 'holiday venue' plan for estate once owned by Judas Priest star

By Dominic Robertson | Bridgnorth | Attractions | Published:

A £50 million plan to create a "world class" holiday destination near Bridgnorth, with golf, tennis, and spa facilities - along with nearly 300 wooden lodges - has been revealed by developers.

The planned main complex entrance at Astbury Hall

The plans for the Astbury Hall Estate have come from the site's new owners, FCFM Group, which bought the premises earlier this year.

The estate, which includes a top class 18-hole golf course, was owned by former Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing, but was put up for sale last year after four of his businesses went into administration.

FCFM said the new plans for the site could see 120 jobs created.

KK Downing at Astbury Hall

The proposals have been submitted to Shropshire Council in three sections.

The first includes building a leisure and spa building, two swimming pools, a farm shop, a function room, restaurant and spa, an outdoor lido pool, tennis courts, bowling greens, a new nine-hole golf course and an 18-hole putting green.

The second and third applications are for 135 and 140 holiday let lodges around the 354 acre estate.

The lodges are intended to be made from timber and "recessed into fairly extensive ground contouring".

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How the holiday lodges would look under the plans

The company has said that the development would bring around £3.5 million in to the local economy each year.

The firm said: "We are hoping it will have a substantial economic impact.

"The benefit to the local community is not only the jobs, it is the secondary impact from visitors who will go out for meals, go into towns and use local shops. There is not just the employment but the secondary impact too."

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FCFM said that they hoped to secure planning permission by next spring, and for a 12 to 15-month building programme to be concluded by the latter part of summer 2020.

A design statement submitted with the application reveals that the existing Astbury Hall building will be retained as the golf clubhouse, with the western wing set aside to serve the tennis and outdoor courts.

The upper floors will house the administration offices.

However, due to the presence of bats in the roof, the planning application for the hall will be submitted at a later date.

The proposed entrance to the site will be current one, off the B4555.

Railway station

The design statement outlines the ambition for the estate, stating: "The overarching objective of this development proposal is to create a world class holiday destination with luxury holiday accommodation and associated leisure and health spa facilities.

"There is a direct and symbiotic relationship between the scale of leisure provision and the 300 proposed high quality lodges. The estate must function primarily as a self-contained destination in its rural setting."

It is intended that people staying at the estate use buggies, bikes or walk to get around.

The design statement says: "Electric buggies will be provided across the development and users will be encouraged to use these or walk or cycle on the network of paths proposed."

Another part of the plans is to connect the site to the Severn Valley Railway, allowing visitors to arrive by steam train to a refurbished Eardington Halt Railway Station

Mr Steven said: "We have agreed sponsorship with the Severn Valley Railway.

"We will sponsored the opening of Eardington Halt which is currently disused and that means visitors who are staying there can catch a train into Bridgnorth or Highley."

The design statement adds: "Consultation and meetings have taken place with the senior management team of Seven Valley Railway, and a joint working and sponsorship arrangement have been agreed, including a direct link from the plateau to the railway.

"The applicant has agreed to assist in financing of the reopening of Erdington Station and to take a direct link between Astbury Estate and the Seven Valley Railway."

Investment will get estate rocking again

The Astbury Hall estate

Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing bought Astbury Hall in 1985 and had developed a top-of-the-range 18-hole course within its grounds, with the ambition of hosting the Open Championship.

The company said there is now “no ongoing involvement from the former owner”.

The latest proposals would see nearly 300 lodges built at the site, under plans to create a “world class holiday destination”.

The one, two and three bedroom lodges are considered caravans under the Caravan Act, and would be constructed off-site in two halves. They would then be delivered on the back of lorries.

The proposals for facilities include building a nine-hole golf course, and an 18-hole putting green, to go alongside the existing 18-hole course.

Swimming pool

FCFM said that although the course is not currently open, green-keeping staff are still working at the estate to ensure it is kept in top condition.

Under the plans, which will be considered by Shropshire Council’s planning officials, FCFM want to build a leisure and spa building, two swimming pools, a farm shop, a function room, restaurant, an outdoor lido pool, tennis courts, bowling greens, a new nine-hole golf course, and an 18-hole putting green at the estate.

The applications also request permission for two sections of 135 and 140 holiday let lodges around the 354 acre estate.

A design statement submitted with the applications says that the development could be worth more than £3.5m a year to the local economy.

It states: “It is anticipated that the customers and guests staying at the resort will have a minimum local spend, off site, of £3.5m per annum within the local economy and, again, the multiplier effect of this will be significant benefitting local bars, restaurants, taxis, petrol stations and tourist attractions, again, this is projected to be a permanent and indexed linked boost the immediate and local economy.”

Despite the estimations about benefit to the surrounding community, the plans do outline ambitions for the estate’s lodges to provide “a self-contained rural holiday experience for holidaymakers without the need for them to leave the estate for their day to day requirements”.

The design statement added: “By providing high-quality on site facilities, holidaymakers will be encouraged to stay on site, thereby reducing traffic movements and creating a wonderful self-contained holiday environment.

“The farm shop selling local farm produce and goods from local suppliers will provide for those self-catering, whilst a wide range of restaurants and food outlets would provide dining for those not wishing to cook.”

The proposals also include a significant building, next to the hall itself, which would include a health spa with a swimming pool, a separate “fun leisure pool” and small fitness suite, and a farm shop.

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