PROPOSALS to convert a derelict fishing lodge at Bewl Water in Lamberhurst into four holiday apartments have been approved.
It follows a 12-month appeal against the decision of the Wealden District Council who rejected the original application over ‘ecological concerns’.
However, a government inspector has ruled in favour of the reservoir, concluding that the small-scale development ‘would not adversely impact on the integrity of the protected European site’.
The appeal gave the go-ahead to extend and change the use of the fishing lodge to form four, one-bed tourist units. The building, which has been vacant since 2016 had been used to support fishing at the reservoir.
Operations Manager, Kevin Parker said: “The proposed development aims to conserve the fishing lodge through small-scale restorations to encourage greater long-term spending within the surrounding area and contribute to local tourism accommodation, which the Council indicate there is presently an identified shortage.
“We still find ourselves dealing with the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis – travel afar is still very much off the table for many people, especially with rising living costs and the tourist board continues to tell me that there’s not enough quality accommodation in the area.
“Services need to be stepped up to keep pace with rising expectations, and to protect the future of Bewl Water as both a visitor attraction and haven for wildlife.”
Home to hundreds of species, Bewl Water spends over £1.3 million annually running and maintaining the estate, which includes ongoing biodiversity schemes.
These play a huge role in maintaining the reservoir’s natural ecosystem and include shoaling measures and conservation grazing.
As part of the appeal decision, the planning inspector said: “The appellant [Bewl Water] has carried out all the required ecological assessments that have been subject to the Council’s Biodiversity Officer consideration.”
To address ecology issues during construction, Bewl Water says fencing and dust coverings will be used throughout, protecting the woodland close by and its native wildlife. They have also provided bird counts as part of the appeal.
Head Ranger Daniel Baker said: “We understand that Bewl Water is treasured by the local community as a unique and beautiful landscape.
“Since submitting the planning application, we have increased our ranger team to ensure we are adequately prepared to care for our local wildlife throughout the development, which of course will put a higher demand on our protection efforts.”
The proposals also consider the conservation of the landscape by protecting the buildings unique features and reducing light pollution.
The renovations to the lodge will use the same external materials of metal and timber to enhance its original character, while also limiting light pollution using controlled and directional low lighting.
Bewl Water says it is now working towards ensuring all conditions outlined in the appeal decision are met and will submit a scheme for the enhancement of the site for biodiversity.