Theme park fears

ANGRY residents are gearing up to fight plans to increase leisure activities at a farm in Portishead - claiming it could turn the countryside into

ANGRY residents are gearing up to fight plans to increase leisure activities at a farm in Portishead - claiming it could turn the countryside into a theme park.Farmer David Down, who is also a Weston-in-Gordano parish councillor, has submitted a retrospective planning application to use his land at Weston Lodge Farm at Valley Road for clay pigeon shooting, paintballing and go-karting.He currently has a certificate of lawful use to run clay pigeon shooting sessions for 35 days each year with the size and hours of the shoot being restricted.But over the years he has expanded activities at the site without consent and now runs go-karting, paintballing and quad biking sessions as well as regular clay pigeon shoots.In his planning application Mr Down wants to increase shooting to 48 Saturdays in the year and have 18 Sunday shoots each year.He also wants to hold 20 weekday events though the year and have no restrictions on the amount of paintballing and go-karting on the site.The plans also seek permission for five cabins on the land, currently used for a paint store, cafe, toilets, changing rooms and storage.The move to officially expand activities at the farm have angered local residents who claim if the plans get the go ahead it will turn the area into a theme park and destroy their peace and quiet.Dilly Taylor, whose property is just a few hundred metres away from where clay pigeon shoots take place, said: "We have put up with the nuisance for several years because we wanted to support a local farmer's bid to diversify."However, if this proposal goes ahead it will turn the area into a major leisure park."We would like to enjoy our properties in the countryside and not be disturbed by this increase in activities on the site."A lot of people in the area feel the same."People living near the farm are now organising a letter writing campaign to fight off the plans and are planning to voice their concerns at a meeting of Weston-in-Gordano parish council tomorrow night (Thurs). But Mr Down has hit back, saying he has been running activities at his farm for the last 17 years.Mr Down said: "No one is forcing me to apply for permission, I am doing it to regulate activities at the farm. I am not introducing any new activities at the farm, for example there has been go-karting here for 14 years."What I am applying for is actually less than I have been doing at the farm on average for the last five years."I have also been noise tested on 12 separate occasions, at sites including Valley Road, Weston-in-Gordano and Charlcombe Rise, and am not breaking any noise regulations whatsoever."A decision on the application is due to be made by North Somerset planners later this month.

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