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£4m youth hostel and visitor hub proposal for Whitlingham Country Park shelved

PUBLISHED: 11:23 12 July 2014

The barn at Whitlingham.

The barn at Whitlingham.

EDP pics © 2011

A £4m vision for a youth hostel and visitor hub at a beauty spot near Norwich has been shelved.

Enhancing the visitor information, café, education and volunteering facilities as well as building an 80-bed youth hostel were proposed for Whitlingham Country Park in April last year to widen its appeal.

The bold ideas would see the Norfolk Broads with its first ever youth hostel – and provide a big boost to the tourism industry.

But at a Broads Authority meeting yesterday it was announced discussions over the site on the edge of Norwich hit a stalemate.

The authority, which manages the site, owners The Crown Point Estate, run by the Colman family, and the Youth Hostels Association have been working together to bring a new hub of activity to the area.

Broads Authority chief executive John Packman said all parties were “bitterly disappointed” that a way forward has not been found.

He said the two key issues which halted the discussions were ownership of the current campsite at the park, which would not be owned by the YHA, and securing a lease with the Crown Point Estate which is long enough to justify the large expense.

A statement on behalf of the Colman family said: “The Crown Point Estate remains committed to delivering innovative options for accommodation at the Whitlingham Country Park.

“However, plans are being put on hold until suitable lease arrangements are established with partners for taking the scheme forward.”

The hostel could sleep two school parties and mean youngsters leaning about wildlife in the classroom could see it brought to life by sleeping on the Broads.

There are just three other YHA youth hostels in Norfolk, one at Hunstanton, another at Wells and Sherringham.

“If we have a youth hostel on the edge of Norwich it would provide a better opportunity for us to bring more school children to stay in the area and learn about the Broads and to go out and explore them,” Dr Packman said.

The plans come as just two years ago visions for an equestrian centre, boutique hotel, fitness and mountain bike trails, a spa and even an open air theatre at the site came to nothing.

Property manager for the YHA, Jake Chalmers, said: “The site has been reviewed by the property department and it has been decided we will not be proceeding with a youth hostel at this time.”

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