Plans for Henham Estate still on course

PLANS to transform a North Suffolk country estate are still on course, despite a delay caused by the recession.

Outline planning permission for a new hotel and apartment complex to replace past halls that are no longer standing at Henham Estate, near Southwold, was granted in 2007, but the economic downturn has hindered progress of the multi-million pound scheme.

The estate, which has been owned by the Rous family for 500 years, has become well-known for hosting the Latitude music festival, Grand Henham Steam Rally and Wings and Wheels event.

Hektor Rous, estate manager and son of the sixth Earl of Stradbroke, who lives in Australia, is spearheading the plans and wants to increase tourism and employment in the area.

His father is seeking a three-year extension to the planning permission from Waveney District Council as work on the project continues.

Mr Rous said: 'We got planning permission in 2007, but unfortunately the economy then went into freefall.

'Some of the developers and hoteliers we have been speaking to are still very keen.

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'It is just a question of timing. I think things are looking more positive and the estate is getting more visitors all the time.'

Mr Rous said the new building would look 'modern' and be as 'environmentally-friendly as possible'.

It will include apartments, conference facilities, restaurants, a beauty spa, auditorium and gym.

If the plans come to fruition the estate will become a major local employer, offering potentially hundreds of jobs.

Mr Rous, 32, said: 'We have had some good meetings this year with people about it.

'The idea is to find a hotelier and a developer that are the right match for us.'

He added: 'The argument for it is much stronger now than three years ago. Suffolk is so much more well-known now for a whole bunch of reasons like Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh and Latitude, and the Olympic expansion of the east is going to really bring the region to people's attention.'

Mr Rous said he was optimistic about getting the planning permission extended.

'Waveney District Council has been really supportive,' he said.

'They want to make this proposal work in this area as much as anyone does.

'I am hoping it will all be fine.'

Investigations of the park have revealed a possible three halls through the centuries with the most recent built in 1791.

It was pulled down in 1953 to avoid death duties, and as part of a row about who should inherit the estate.

Its glorious fireplaces, staircase and ceilings were sold to American dealers, and the four-acre walled garden and its conservatories torn down.

The previous hall, built in 1538, burnt to the ground after a drunken butler dropped a candle in the cellars.

The original pre-Tudor Henham Hall was timber-framed, and had its own moat-yard which exists in part to this day.