THE BOLTON Abbey estate has started consulting about plans to improve its visitor facilities.

It is considering a number of developments for its main visitor area, including a cycling hub, farm shop and guest accommodation.

Still at an early stage, the "aspirational" options are being explored by planning consultants Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners (NLP).

They held a public consultation in Bolton Abbey Village last week to gain some initial feedback from residents.

Planning and development manager for estate owners Chatsworth Settlement Trustees, Will Kemp, said: "The estate has hired planning consultants NLP to do a study looking at possible development options for our core visitor area,

from Bolton Bridge to Barden Bridge, in the long term.

"As part of this study, NLP held a public liaison event in the village hall last week so we could glean initial views from the community to help us meet our visitors' needs without harming the amenity of the area.

"We have to get things right for generations to come.

"NLP is currently collating and considering the feedback concerned – which seems to be overwhelmingly positive/supportive – and will report back to us in due course, after the holiday period.

"This work is aspirational and at an early stage, and mainly concerned with looking at 'strategic' options for the next hundred years or so.

"We haven't come to a view on any of the options yet and certainly don't have any immediate plans to submit a planning application."

The document that's been drawn up by NLP – the Bolton Abbey Development Options Appraisal – says the estate's operations are currently being compromised due to a number of factors. They include a lack of children's play facilities, little or no secondary spend by visitors, and limited staff and visitor accommodation.

The new developments being considered, which could create 37 jobs, include: a farm shop, pub, and cycling hub; play facilities and more paths; community heating scheme; and visitor accommodation.

Former Bolton Abbey resident, Louis Della-Porta, however, is concerned about the impact of such expansion and points out that a number of pasture fields could be lost as part of the project.

He said: "It's fine for them to say it's low key and long-term but things have a habit of starting like that and ending very differently.

"A lot of the additional commercial aspects they're talking of bringing in would be in direct competition with what's already there and provided by local farmers and the community.

"And the fact not many people seemed to have been aware of this public consultation, which was held during the quiet holiday season, doesn't inspire much confidence."

l See pages 12/13 for further comment on this issue