A POPULAR Herefordshire business is trying to bounce back from a huge downturn in trade as it seeks to build new facilities – and it has support.
The Longtown Outdoor Learning Centre, nestled in the Golden Valley, has applied for planning permission from Herefordshire Council for a new dining hall, kitchen, staff bedroom, office, store, utility room, toilets and shower rooms.
Tomkins Thomas Planning said the Wilson Foundation wanted to expand the site by creating a modern and attractive facility that respects the surrounding landscape and heritage.
It is hoped that the facility will bring substantial benefits to resident and non-resident customers of the center and provide improved facilities for the local community, customers and locals expressing their support for the program.
The consultants said given the “devastating effects” of Covid-19 on the business, which resulted in a 70% drop in revenue in 2020 compared to 2019, it is hoped the facility will also enable the Longtown Outdoor Learning Trust to continue to drive recovery through business growth, job creation and increased visitor spending in the local community.
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The centre, opened in 1964, offers archery, rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding and raft building to help children grow.
It also offers off-site activities including caving, hiking, rock climbing and gorge walking, which take place in the nearby Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains.
The new building, if approved, will be a one-storey vernacular barn with a lean-to. Its main use will be to accommodate between 80 and 100 guests at a time, which means that several sessions will no longer be necessary.
The consultants believe this will make the attraction more attractive to school groups.
It will have red sandstone and clad walls, a slate tiled roof with slate effect solar panels and powder coated aluminum windows, depending on the application.
Among several letters of support for the scheme, Helen Arthur, from Longtown, said the center is vital for the small rural economy and offers fantastic educational opportunities.
Kane Morrison, from Holme Lacy, near Hereford, said she had been to the center several times and had a fantastic time.
But she said facilities needed to be improved and the plans would have a positive impact on children across the county.
Vicky Orsmond, from Abergavenny, said the expanded space would be invaluable for the centre, which is now more important than ever after the Covid pandemic to provide children with togetherness, outdoor life and confidence building .
Consultation on request 223349 is open until November 24, with planners setting November 30 as the target date for a decision.