A farmland buffer zone between Ingoldmells and Chapel St Leonards looks set to be retained - despite protests that it is blighting potential tourism growth and job creation.
At an East Lindsey planning policy meeting, councillors were split 3-3 on the issue, so it fell to chairman Coun Richard Fry to cast his vote in favour of retention of the controversial ‘protection zone’ that separates the two villages.
The decision disappointed meeting attendees Stuart Hardy and Jonathan Moses who had sought to persuade the committee that freeing up ploughed fields to be redeveloped as sensitively designed caravan parks would be beneficial - both by creating wildlife-friendly habitats and by boosting the vital visitor economy.
Mr Hardy, whose family operates a popular farm animal attraction, claimed that the two villages already coalesced and that Ingoldmells also abutted Winthorpe to the south.
He maintained that new leisure parks had a much lower density of caravans and incorporated hedgerows, trees and lakes because visitors from towns and cities appreciated a relaxed, rural atmosphere.
Mr Moses, a director of Blue Anchor Leisure which operates 15 local leisure parks and has a 200-strong workforce, said old style ‘block-to-block’ caravan parks would soon belong to the past.
“Standards need to be higher,” he insisted. “Visitors who have been on holiday to hotels or on overseas packages are looking for quality.
“That is what we need to provide in this area if we are to remain competitive.”
He went on to speculate on what the ELDC response might be if Center Parcs, a holiday company with national brand recognition, applied to develop this land. “Would the council turn them away?” he asked.
The committee also noted a comment from the organisation Visit East Lincolnshire that the tourism industry required an additional 900 acres to accommodate caravans displaced by the reduction in densities as sites elsewhere were upgraded by their operators.
The committee heard on Thursday that officers had conducted a consultation exercise on the issue but this had been of inconclusive outcome - largely because there had only been 26 responses.
However, the survey revealed that both parish councils had come down in favour of retaining the buffer zone - a view endorsed by Coun Paul Hibbert-Greaves, a ward councillor for Chapel St Leonards, who said: “When I was canvassing in the run-up to the local election, householders were adamant that they wanted the separate identity of the two villages to be safeguarded
“Of further caravan development, the overwhelming view is that enough is enough.”
Prior to the debate, Mr Hardy sought to present councillors with an illustrated report, outlining the case for sensitive tourism development, but he was prevented from doing so by the chairman because the required four days’ advance notice had not been given.