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Needham Lake visitor centre plans given go-ahead

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Plans for a visitor centre and cafe at one of Suffolk’s most popular tourist destinations have been given the go-ahead.

Needham Lake – considered to be the most frequently visited free attraction in East Anglia – will get the £600,000 development, after approval was granted unanimously by Mid Suffolk District Council’s planning committee today (Wednesday, December 11).

The project is being delivered by the council, and has been funded from retained business rates, and includes a visitor centre, cafe and toilet facilities.

Needham Lake visitor centre plans (24019683)
Needham Lake visitor centre plans (24019683)

Blueprints for the scheme were unveiled to the public in October, with locals getting the chance to share their thoughts at a public event at the community centre.

Dan Towers, agent on behalf of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “Needham Lake is a really exciting project to be involved in and is also a feel good project.

“We as a design team acknowledge that Needham Lake is a heavily visited destination, predominantly for its beauty and wildlife.

Needham Lake visitor centre plans (24019683)
Needham Lake visitor centre plans (24019683)

“It’s therefore not surprising that the council and local community want the visitor centre to be sympathetic to the surroundings and that’s what we have strived to do.”

The plans have been backed by the ward councillors and Needham Market Town Council, as well as locals.

In 2018, the lake attracted more than 376,000 visitors according to Visit England, making it one of the most popular in the county.

While the plans were unanimously approved, some concerns were raised that the solar panels were facing the wrong way because they were on a north-facing roof, which councillor Richard Meyer described as “clumsy”.

Improvements to the solar panels are set to be ironed out before building commences, as well as an investigation into using rain water harvesting in the toilets.

The building will also be lifted above the floodplain to help mitigate against flood risks.

The site currently only has one small refreshments hut, with ward councillor Mike Norris in his representation saying that it was “a facility that’s been very much in demand for some time.”

Building work is expected to commence early in 2020, ahead of a target opening in the summer, subject to work being on schedule.