OWNERS of one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions have been accused of running it down to make it easier to get the go-ahead for an eco-homes development.
At a heated public meeting more than 140 residents voiced their objections to £12million plans for 87 homes, 14 wind turbines and allotments on the site of Long Sutton’s Butterfly and Wildlife Park, which is set to close at the end of this season.
The vision for the future of the park belongs to local architect Dr Jerry Harrell and park owner Peter Smeaton.
But it is not one shared by many of the people living nearby, who fear new development will add extra strain on the town’s struggling infrastructure such as supermarkets, schools and doctors’ surgeries.
The hastily called public meeting was chaired by local farmer and magistrate George Hoyles and attended by 142 people.
At one point during the evening Mr Hoyles had to call the meeting to order as residents became heated after park director Michael Crosse said a year on year drop in visitor numbers had led to the decision to close it.
Residents said they felt prices had been set too high as a deliberate attempt to run the park down.
Earlier in the evening Judy Hunns said: “The directors never intended to keep the park open.
“The previous owners developed the butterfly park into a thriving business, but the present owners say it does not make a profit.
“There was never any intention to try to keep the park open.”
Other concerns raised during the evening included fears a new housing development would lead to a huge increase in the amount of traffic using an already busy road.
Resident Paul Reeve questioned a traffic survey which had been commissioned by Moor Solar, the company behind the plans, saying it was conducted in the wrong place.
Pat Curbutt, of Little London, said: “Traffic is awful. There is no visibility, there is a footpath on one side only, traffic coming from the secondary school, sports clubs and nursery and parked cars all along one side of the road.”
She joined Mr Reeve in calling for a new independent survey.
Residents also claimed they had not been included in any formal consultation on the plans and raised fears about the impact on wildlife in the area, as well as noise disturbance from the proposed turbines.
At the end of the meeting a vote was held where 141 residents were against the plans, with just one in favour.