An historic farm in the Derbyshire countryside is set to gain a new lease of life as a sheep dairy, creamery, hotel, bar and restaurant.
The new business near Crich would look after 7,000 breeding ewes and 2,000 lambs.
Amber Valley borough councillors unanimously approved the plans, for Wakebridge Farm, north west of Crich, at a meeting last week.
The business, run by John Bailey and Heather Benbow, would make artisan cheese, including from sheep’s milk.
Overall the scheme would create 20 to 30 jobs.
They hope to offer opportunities to the public, particularly children and people from non-rural backgrounds, to get involved and observe how products are made ‘from field to plate’.
It also aims to provide agricultural and veterinary employment and training opportunities.
The application also states that the proposal would ‘bring new agricultural technologies to Derbyshire which although present on the continent are rare in the UK’.
It would also have a 54-space car park and two timber cabins for dairy workers.
There was concern among local residents that the application would see the ‘tranquility’ of the parish ‘destroyed’ and that there was ‘future potential for noisy functions’.
Borough councillor Gareth Gee, the ward member for the site, said that he had listened to the concerns of residents but approved of the application.
He said: “The residents are rightfully concerned with regard to the intended principle use of the farmstead being agricultural rather than as a hotel and function facilities.
“These concerns are borne out of the provision of a large car park and supplementary staff accommodation.
“In addition to this I am told the applicant has recently undergone extensive road forming works to create a more permanent access to the rear of the property. These works have being carried out by heavy plant machinery and there is a concern over whether such works are allowable prior to the application being determined by the council.
“However, this is a positive move for Crich and Wakebridge, and I believe it is a local businessman who is reinvesting into the community. The proposals are quite impressive.”
One of the owners of the farm, Mr Bailey, said that a great deal of work was required to one of the former buildings on the site, which is Grade II listed.
He told the meeting: “The roof is falling in, the floors are coming through and we need to spend a lot of money to protect this.
“This is a sustainable move and would be preferable to make it available for use by the public.
“We have come up with a plan to sort out this mess, and it would be for a sustainable agricultural use. We aim to restore the buildings and set up a restaurant and meeting room in some of the others.
“Our love is milking sheep and there is no danger of this causing any problems.
“The former use of the site was as a dairy for cows, and there is much less odour, much less noise and much less hassle from sheep.
“The sheep would have to be housed in winter, not left out on the hillside, because they are to be used for milk.
“There will be a gantry through the sheepshed for children and visitors to see the sheep up close.
“It will create 20-30 – some very highly-skilled – jobs, and opportunities for training,” Mr Bailey added.
Rae Gee, the principal planning officer for Amber Valley Borough Council, said: “The previous purely agricultural use would not be able to bring all of the buildings back into use.”
She urged councillors to support the application due to the economic benefit of the scheme, and to reopen derelict buildings.