Council’s support for plans to re-open Leonardslee Gardens

A plan aimed at re-opening the famous Leonardslee Gardens was overwhelmingly supported by a district council committee this week.

The Lower Beeding gardens, regarded by many as some of the country’s finest, closed to the public when the gardens were bought by a new owner in July 2010.

This week saw the first official confirmation that the new owner is working towards re-opening the site.

Leonardslee Estate has applied for planning permission for: ‘Works to provide new car parking, new and adjusted access to the A281 and B2110, alterations to the red house, stables complex, museum block and engine house and four new timber structures associated with opening Leonardslee Gardens to the public.’

The application was put before a Horsham District Council planning committee on Tuesday.

Officers had recommended that the application be delegated for approval, subject to comments from English Heritage and county archaeologists. Councillors were united in their praise for the gardens, and in their support for plans to re-open them.

Duncan England (Con, Nuthurst) said: “I would like to support this recommendation, and I hope other members will as well.

“This is a major tourist attraction and considerable development is planned for this estate and to enhance the gardens. I think in these times of hardship we’re very lucky to have this type of investment in the district council area.”

Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate) said: “I have to say the prospect of Leonardslee being open again is wonderful, and one that we will all welcome.”

Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) said: “The closure left quite a hole in terms of visitor attractions, and I think it was sorely missed.

“When it closed, everyone was very fearful that this really was the end.”

Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) said: “This is the most stunning garden that I’ve ever been to. At this time of year, when the azaleas and rhododendrons are out, it’s spectacular.”

David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) said: “I think it’s all very well conceived, and I support the proposal.”

The planning officers’ report says the site was ‘a major visitor attraction’.

“Following a recent review, it has been decided that the gardens should re-open, initially with limited ancillary facilities.

“Considerable investment is planned for the long term development of the estate, including Leonardslee House, so as to provide a sustainable strategy to maintain and enhance the gardens and buildings and to provide a range of visitor attractions and services.”