AMBITIOUS plans for a tourist destination and village hub at the former Aylings Garden Centre in Trotton, near Rogate, have hit a hurdle.
Reopened last year as the Maple Ridge Garden Centre and Country Store just off the A272 the new owners, Paul Findlay, his father James and brother William of Eco Warrior Resorts have been trying to get planning permission to demolish the existing garden centre buildings and replace them with a two storey ‘log cabin’.
But in the face of strong opposition they have now withdrawn the application.
“We have taken our plans back to the drawing board and will be resubmitting them soon,” said Paul.
“The problem was that the planners said the long cabin style on the outside did not fit in with the area, so we are redesigning it to keep the log cabin feel on the inside.”
He was anxious to quash rumours circulating since his family took over the business.
“There have been a lot of rumours that we were a massive corporate company coming in to take over the area and build loads of houses,” he said, “but we are a family business trying to update the garden centre and create something to leave to our children.
“Unfortunately it’s been quite difficult to get the new business going, I think because it’s been a garden centre for years and people don’t want to see any change.”
But, said Paul the existing buildings were run down and needed modernising. He said much work had been done just to be able to keep stock in a good condition to sell.
“We are desperate to get our plans going,” he told the Observer, “and now we think we have managed to make a deal with a small family run garden centre business near Andover and we hope to run the two garden centres in partnership.”
Paul wants to turn the Maple Ridge Centre into a tourist destination which also attracts local families.
“We want to make it something for the local area to be proud of,” he said. “We want to provide a new hub for the surrounding area where people can come and hold meetings.
In addition Paul and his family have plans to open a small petting farm with chickens, pigs, sheep and goats as well as rare breeds.
“We also want a special play area for the children and a bakery.”
Among the objectors was Trotton with Chithurst Parish Council which welcomed the redevelopment but objected to the design which made it “too high and intrusive into the landscape of the national park.”
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