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Astbury Hall: £50m plan set for approval at KK Downing's old stately home

By Dominic Robertson | Bridgnorth | Property | Published:

The £50 million creation of a "world class" leisure venue with golf, tennis, and spa facilities, as well as nearly 300 wooden lodges, looks set to get the go-ahead.

An artist's impression of how Astbury Hall could look

Shropshire Council's planning officers have recommended that ambitious redevelopment plans for the Astbury Estate near Bridgnorth are given planning permission.

They would see the 354-acre site transformed into a huge leisure complex including 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 site was previously owned by former Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing, but was put up for sale in 2017 after four of his businesses went into administration.

KK Downing at the estate back in 2009

He had harboured ambitions to develop the venue as a top class golf course, with the aim of eventually hosting The Open.

FCFM, which bought the site last year, has said the plans could see 120 jobs created.

Concerns

The application will be considered by Shropshire Council's planning committee next Tuesday and comes in four sections.

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The second and third applications are for 135 and 140 holiday let lodges, which would be built around the estate.

Approval for the development relies on the committee members voting to grant planning permission.

An artist's impression of how one of the 275 planned lodges will look

As part of the recommendation for approval there are a raft of conditions, which must be met by the new owners.

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Some include substantial reports on details of the development, which have yet to be provided, but must be submitted before work can begin.

There have been concerns raised from some local residents about the impact of the development on the nature of Eardington and added traffic on small nearby roads.

The National Trust also wrote to the council expressing its own worries about the potential impact of the work on the nearby Dudmaston Hall.

But Shropshire Council's planning team has decided there are no grounds on which the development should be refused.

'No unacceptable impact'

One of the question marks has surrounded the access to the site off the B4555, but the report recommending the application is approved, written by case officer Richard Fortune, concludes that it is acceptable.

It also says that the extra traffic on the B4555 will be acceptable.

Another artist's impression of the planned leisure complex

It states: "Whilst the development will be a substantial development for the surrounding area, analysis shows that it will not generate a significant amount of trips compared to the existing number of vehicles already travelling along the B4555."

It adds: "It is not considered that there is material grounds to consider a highways refusal for any of the applications submitted.

"Shropshire Council as highway authority would need to demonstrate that the B4555 and surrounding highway network do not have the capacity to support a development of this nature. It is not considered a highway objection could be sustained on this basis."

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Concerns have also been raised about the impact of the volume of traffic on some junctions in Bridgnorth, most notably B4555/B4363 and Oldbury Road/Hollybush Road.

Those worries have been dismissed in the officer's report, although it says that no dedicated assessment has been carried out on the junctions.

Investment

The report also details backing from the council's economic team, which claims the development could bring as much as £15m of investment into the county.

It states: "Overall the proposed development will generate the equivalent of £15.2m of net additional annual investment, supporting approximately 331 net additional FTEs (full-time equivalent).

The report adds: "The proposal signifies the ability to offer a provision that will not only rejuvenate a currently disused golf course operation, but create a facility that supports to drive new visitors to a rural part of the county and support businesses within both the wider visitor economy sector and those benefitting the broader local community.

"The visitor economy sector is one of the most significant within Shropshire and with the broad range of attractions available, high visitor numbers and the value that this brings to the Shropshire economy, this application provides a significant opportunity to support in continued economic growth within this sector.

"This opportunity also has the potential to create a truly national and even international facility, supporting to develop Shropshire’s position firmly on the map as a destination to visit and stay and delivering increased spend in this locality."

In a statement released by FCFM when it announced the plans last December it claimed the development could be worth more than £3.5m a year to the local economy.

It said: “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.”

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