A planning application has been submitted for a £3m equine therapy and respite centre on a 10-hectare site in Cheshire.
The project is the brainchild of two local businessmen both who have personal experience of dealing with autism.
The landowners have created a Community Interest Company (CIC) for the development of the Westlake Equine Therapy Centre on green belt land in Little Sutton.
The main user of the centre will be the Wirral Autistic Society who will be given a long lease on the centre for a peppercorn rent.
“There is a huge shortage of local riding opportunities for the people we support and care for. This is a fantastic opportunity,” said Steve Nunwick, WAS’s director of estates and facilities.
WAS has no current access to equine therapy and its local access to Riding for the Disabled Association is restricted to one session every four weeks at a local riding school.
The capital cost of the project is to be raised from the sale of 15 residential plots on the front two hectares of land at the site opposite a hotel.
“Planning permission for development on green belt land is only given in very special circumstances, where the need for development is overwhelming and the benefits clearly outweigh any harm caused. I’m convinced that such conditions exist with this project,” said Chris Clayton, agent for the applicant.
The centre would employ around 100 people and help address the current shortage of care and respite opportunities for those living with autism.
The facilities will be available to others on a regular basis including the disabled, trauma victims and local schools.
“We are very excited about the prospect of a truly integrated community project that provides a spectrum of facilities including respite, community and vocational services and employment opportunities for our Step into Work scheme,” said Mr Nunwick.
The equine therapy centre will have an outdoor arena, stables and indoor manege on 14 acres of land.
The RDA is offering equine advice and its officers from the north west region have attended project meetings.
“RDA is highly impressed by the extreme generosity of Westlake in offering to not only supply a purpose built facility but also offer financial assistance for the running of the establishment for several years,” said RDA chief executive Ed Bracher.
The public consultation on the project with Cheshire West & Chester Council closes on 3 July.