The public opening date of the 200 acre Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens estate - the ‘finest woodland gardens in England’ - at Horsham in West Sussex, is postponed until January 2019 due to delays in planning approvals.
“We have been forced to extend the refurbishment programme and postpone the opening until January 2019 because of planning delays that are beyond our control. This is a year-long restoration project already and this set back is deeply disappointing for us and the many members who have already joined,” says Penny Streeter, owner of Leonardslee Gardens.
“In the meantime, Leonardslee House can accommodate groups for weddings and private parties by appointment. In August we will open a new restaurant, Interlude, and tea rooms, and can accept reservations shortly when the date is confirmed.”
The first planning issue results from restrictions by Natural England, the Government body for protection of the natural environment. The presence of a great crested newt was detected - although it has never been seen - in one of the greenhouses on site. This has prevented any building works anywhere on the estate; only maintenance works are allowed, according to the regulations.
This has delayed the building of a new entrance and ticket office for the gardens until Natural England agree to any work proceeding. Planning consent is required from Horsham council and then the estate must apply for a license from Natural England to move the newt into a new environment. This is not anticipated to be in place until October 2018.
Also, a survey is underway to detect a bat, possibly located inside the manor house; the owners are waiting for the results to then get essential planning consent from Horsham Council to continue restoration work and update the facilities of the Grade II Listed building.
“Added to this, we await planning permission from Horsham District Council to create a new car park to accommodate the high volume of visitors’ vehicles that are expected. The existing car park at the front of the house is not adequate to meet projected numbers, even for use on a temporary basis. Additional parking spaces are essential. The planning delays are very frustrating for us and the many supporters of this beautiful and historic estate, who contact us daily asking to visit,” says Penny Streeter.