A £4M REDEVELOPMENT of the Aldingbourne Country Centre is due to be approved next week.
The transformation of the site north of the A27 is being recommended to receive planning permission from councillors.
The Aldingbourne Trust charity wants to create a new three-storey visitor building, in a former quarry, extend the existing building used by its clients with learning disabilities and reconfigure the current animal-petting buildings.
A second phase of the ambitious scheme will see the existing office building and cafe converted into overnight accommodation for users of the new facilities.
New landscaping to include car parking of 120 spaces, planting and improved pathways is also proposed.
Arun District Council planning officer Susan Leeson tells members of its development control committee in a report for next Wednesday’s meeting: “It is considered the benefits to the community of the proposal are significant.
“The redevelopment of the site in two phases will incorporate sustainability, will promote the training facilities of adults with learning difficulties and will support the rural economy.
“The new visitor centre is designed to link the new car park in the former quarry with the raised level of the existing site, while providing facilities for conferences, the site shop and a cafe in one building.
“The extension of the client building will enable use of the site under phase two to become a sixth-form training centre for adults with learning difficulties.
“The rationalising of the animal-petting area, allotments and workshops will further improve the site, which will be pulled together by the introduction of new pathways which will make a natural route around the site.”
The scheme forms a large part of the trust’s plans to raise more money and become less reliant on external funding in response to the tough financial climate.
The history of the centre on its 7.2ha site on rural Blackmill Lane stretches back to 1978. There are 36 current staff members and volunteers, 127 clients a week and a daily average of 90 visitors.
Its sensitive location is shown by the fact the South Downs National Park starts 100m from its entrance. But Mrs Leeson states no visual harm or disturbance will be caused by the redevelopment.
Four letters of objection to the scheme were received by the council. They refer to the increased traffic along Blackmill Lane – a single track lane with only one passing spot – which will be caused by the additional facilities. The objectors also question the need for a conference centre with Goodwood and Fontwell nearby.