New children's play area proposed for major visitor attraction near Horsham
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They say the new play area will include high quality swing sets, climbing frames, a rope slide, a waterplay area, a tower with slide and a further climbing house with smaller slide, new benches and family picnic areas.
They are also applying for retrospective approval for a permanent new car parking area which would allow the parking of 402 extra cars and five extra coaches.
They say it is needed to cope with increasing numbers of visitors to the gardens which are expected to grow still further with a number of new events and attractions being lined up for the future.
In a statement to the council, agents for Leondardslee owners – building consultants Donald Insall Associates – say: “The main objective for this application is to resolve the matter of the permanent car park installed without planning permission to the field to the south of the approved main visitor car park, an area which has been used as an overflow visitor’s car park for decades by current and previous owners of the estate.
“The permanent visitor’s car park approved in 2018 was largely permitted on the basis that only a permanent car park would enable year-round opening and use of the Leonardslee Gardens estate. Prior to that, the car park would only cope with adhoc car parking in the dry summer months which severely restricted the number of visitors to the gardens and the wider immediate area.
“Since the gardens reopened, a regular series of year-round events have been staged attracting thousands of people to the area. These include late evening lightshow events in the cold winter months drawing visitors to this part of the country. The popularity of these events has seen the need for additional car parking, which is the reason why the permanent car park to the south car park was constructed.”
Leonardslee says that the number of visitors has risen from 50,000 in its first year of opening since it was bought by businesswoman Penny Streeter to more than 250,000.
It has outlined future expansion proposals encluding enlarging its current cafe so that it can serve hot food throughout the day; plans for a new tearoom/coffee shop; plans to build a new function space to cater for weddings, parties and conferences; plans for a new visitor centre with a gift shop, a farm shop selling produce from local butchers, bakers and cheesemongers; a plant centre; wine tasting venue and commmunity market space.
As part of its current planning application, Leonardslee is also seeking permission to relocate a chicken enclosure, plant new trees and reinstate a hedge alongside the A281 perimeter.
If approved, the current chicken enclosure consisting of sheds, associated fencing and road track will be made good and returned to open parkland.