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Symondsbury craft workshops “to add to Bridport’s national reputation”

WORK is due to start early next year on turning a Symondsbury “eyesore” into a tourist attraction.

Part of Manor Yard, Symondsbury

The Colfox family have dropped controversial plans to convert the historic Manor Yard into a wedding venue with six wedding / holiday homes and 100 car parking spaces.

Instead the 18th century stable block in Mill Lane is going to be converted into six modern craft workshops which it is hoped will attract visitors from across the country. The target date for completion is October 2011.

Julia Colfox is now Managing Director of Symondsbury Farms Ltd, and in control of developments, replacing an agent (Pineapple Rural of Salway Ash).

The Symondsbury Farms estate consists of about 1,500 acres, and although agriculture still accounts for the biggest proportion of its income, the Colfox family are keen to diversify.

There are also plans to revamp Crepe Farm (approved application; others have been withdrawn, eg shop and restaurant) and Axen Farm (shooting lodge and holiday accommodation).

A letter about Symondsbury’s Whole Farm Plan written in May 2010 by Pineapple’s Andrew Dyke revealed that annual income was projected to rise to £986,000 by 2013/14, compared to an estimated £723,000 for 2009/10. The letter also details environmental improvements.

Manor Yard

A statement issued by Symondsbury Farms Ltd has said “quite frankly” that Manor Yard is an “eyesore”.

About 90% of the roof is covered in sheeting.

The stable block has been covered in tarpaulins for seven years. West Dorset District Council served notice five years ago that urgent improvements were required – a notice was served under section 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990.

The craft workshops plan was approved in February 2009, as – planners said – “an excellent opportunity to breathe new life into a vulnerable collection of historically significant buildings”.

The scheme got put to one side when an application went in for a wedding venue – but that application was recently withdrawn. (It would have meant the loss of 13 full time jobs).

Skilled workers in rural crafts

Now – says the Symondsbury Farms statement – “The objective is to attract skilled workers in rural crafts and for the public to be able to come and see them at work.

“The Pottery run by Miles Bell and Wendy Lees’ Herb Nursery will remain on site with the former relocating to a new building.

“Bridport is already gaining a national reputation as a thriving historic market town with its artists’ community and annual literary festival to name but two of its assets.

“It is very much anticipated that the new complex will become an attraction and destination for those visiting Bridport and whilst adding to this reputation will, as importantly, be see by the inhabitants of Symondsbury as in keeping with its environment as well as being a real asset within their community.”

Manor Yard has been an important place of work in Symondsbury for 500 years.