Another show centre at risk of being lost to housing redevelopment

  • The south east could be set to lose another show centre to developers, after plans were submitted to build 38 homes at Norton Heath.

    The 18-acre livery yard, former British Dressage and current British Showjumping (BS) venue in Ongar, Essex was put on the market in 2011 for £3million, and again more recently, but failed to attract a buyer.

    In December 2016, owners Bob and Toni Finch submitted plans to demolish all existing buildings on the site and replace them with a housing development.

    Bob said they had “no comment” to make on the scheme, but indicated that the planning process and all initial reports had so far run smoothly.

    A previous application by the Finchs to build a three-bedroom house and garage at the site was turned down by Epping Forest District Council in 2010.

    Planners refused permission, saying that the site was poorly located for public transport and local amenities. They also noted its location within the “metropolitan greenbelt.”

    BS dates at the centre are currently being run by Teza Englefield, who said she was unsure how long the shows would be able to continue and was looking for a new venue going forward.

    “I’ve secured summer dates from April to September [with BS], and I’ll be going into the date meeting in March with a view to getting dates for the winter. We’ll be putting in for them, which is all I can do, and then we’ll be playing it by ear,” she said.

    Continued below…

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    Land values in the south have made development a tantalising prospect for equestrian centres, who often struggle to make a profit.

    The popular Essex equestrian centre Towerlands Park was bulldozed in 2011, with owner Bill Gredley saying the losses of operating the facility had “run into millions of pounds”.

    The site has since remained vacant, while a planning application to build 1,150 homes on the land was submitted in 2015.

    More recently, plans to build 48 homes on the site of Patchetts Equestrian Centre in Hertfordshire were rubber-stamped in May.

    The centre closed in August 2015, with a statement from owners the McTaggart family saying that the business “had not been economically viable for some considerable time”.

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