Maldon holiday home plan sparks outrage amongst Woodham Walter villagers

Outrage has been expressed by villagers at the proposal for more holiday lodges in a small rural village.

The owners of the Warren Estate in Woodham Walter, near Danbury, claim the £7million plan would create dozens of jobs, but some argue there will be no economic benefit at all to the area.

There is also concern among villagers that the population of the small rural community of just over 500 would more than double if this development were to go ahead.

Parish council chairman, Councillor John Tompkins, claimed: “Any perceived economic benefits do not outweigh the considerable detrimental visual impact, encroachment on the countryside and the urbanisation of the rural landscape.”

The parish council claims that of the 102 lodges all bar six have now been sold on to private individuals, with many being lived in against the planning conditions imposed, and villagers are concerned that this could be repeated at the new development.

An application in 2019 for 10 lodges in the village was turned down at appeal as it was decided the existing 102 lodges on The Warren Estate ‘fulfils any tourism need within the area and any further accommodation would be surplus’.

Villager John McKenna, who said that there is no economic benefit to the village, added: “It’s unsustainable, it’s not energy efficient – what happens to these structures after ten bad winters?

“Is anyone looking that far ahead? If my house blew down in a hurricane and I had to rebuild it, I would have to meet a number of regulations, I would have to pay council tax, none of which apply to these.

“This is all a smoke screen for whether they can sell 75 lodges at £200,000 each, exactly as before, and show a complete disrespect to the community that they operate in.”

But the added concern that the newest scheme will also allow people to purchase the lodges has been scotched by Warren Estate.

Warren Estate says that most of its current 102 lodges are sold as holiday homes in line with the planning permission that was granted – this puts a restriction on the amount of time people can live there. The lodges are not subject to council tax levies.

While no lodge owners pay council tax for their holiday lodge, they all pay holiday rental annual pitch fees.

They add that it is not possible to purchase a lodge for residential purposes and for due diligence every sale transaction is conveyanced through solicitors, with strict lodge park conditions.

John Moran, managing director of The Warren Estate, said: “The new lodge park planning application is for a Hoeseasons Go Active resort, which is very different from our current holiday homes that we offer for sale.

“All lodges are of a different design and built for the sole purpose of short break active holidays. Every lodge will remain under the ownership of the Warren Estate and sit within our short break rental portfolio.

“The planning application also re-designs the Bunsay club house to support the host of activities, the new golf academy will also be on offer for the holiday experience.

“With regards an economic benefit, this analysis has been supplied by one of the district’s leading companies Destination Research and provided us with the footprint for our huge financial investment into expanding our short break holiday portfolio under this fantastic holiday brand.  This can be fully read in detail on the planning portal.

“We are proud that over the last five years after rescuing The Warren Golf club from administration, we have already created many new jobs by its many improvements, new leisure complex, new hotel rooms, new wedding venue, Wayside Retreat luxury weekend breaks, luxury lodge holiday ownership and providing memberships which now exceed 2,000 members. We are now known as The Warren Estate.”

He said the company had undertaken a wide range of reports into ecology, visual impact and transport with leading consultancies, as well as statistical modelling.

“Ultimately it will be for Maldon District Council to determine whether any impacts are outweighed by the economic benefits, we have made our case they substantially are,” he added.

“In terms of any contravention of planning conditions we wholeheartedly dispute this. If anyone has any concerns about the residential status of any lodge owner on our site they should provide evidence of this to Maldon District Council who will then raise this with us.

“We will make the parish council aware that any unsubstantiated claims made in the press will be forwarded to our solicitors.

“On a final point, we have had very constructive discussions on site and via email with Lisa Bone, head of Visit Essex over the past two years. Lisa’s letter of support simply details her viewpoint in her official position, the content of which speaks for itself.

“We offered a full open invitation to all the residents of the local village to tour our estate and view our plans.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter