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Revealed - Major proposals for cafe and visitor centre at beauty spot

PUBLISHED: 07:05 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 07:15 11 October 2019

The visitor centre is planned for Needham Lake  Picture: PAUL NIXON

The visitor centre is planned for Needham Lake Picture: PAUL NIXON

Paul Nixon Photography 01473430707 07904296577

Plans for a £600,000 visitor centre and cafe at Needham Lake, one of Suffolk's most popular beauty spots, have been unveiled to the public.

An artist's impression of the new visitor centre proposed for Needham Lake  Picture: HAMSON BARRON SMITHAn artist's impression of the new visitor centre proposed for Needham Lake Picture: HAMSON BARRON SMITH

Blueprints are being developed by Mid Suffolk District Council for a high quality and environmentally sustainable building at the site near Stowmarket.

The new centre will include a café and public convenience facilities at what was named as the most visited free attraction in the East of England in 2018 by tourist board Visit England.

Dozens of residents turned out at Needham Market Community Centre on Thursday October 10 to get their first glimpse of the proposals.

They include solar panels on the roof, potentially using an eco-friendly reed-bed system for foul water, and using natural and low-carbon materials to minimise the environmental impact of the building.

An impression of the proposed new centre detailing aspects of its design  Picture: HAMSON BARRON SMITHAn impression of the proposed new centre detailing aspects of its design Picture: HAMSON BARRON SMITH

Julie Flatman, Mid Suffolk District Council's cabinet member for communities and housing, said: "We have listened to visitors to the lake and to the local community and incorporated their thoughts into our designs.

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"Through events like this we will continue to listen and look forward to being able to transform this sustainable vision into a reality, improving the facilities at the lake for its many visitors and - by strengthening connections between the lake and town centre - also bring a welcome boost for local business."

Next steps will see final plans submitted next month, with work due to start subject to planning permission during the winter.

The centre is expected to open by summer 2020.

Needham Lake is a 9.9 hectare local nature reserve in former sand and gravel workings off Coddenham Road and on the edge of the River Gipping.

Council-owned since the 1980s, in 2018 it attracted more than 376,000 visitors to win the accolade of Visit England's most popular free attraction in the region.

Despite its popularity there is only one small refreshments hut, which is on the other side of the lake from the nearest toilets.

The council is also also seeking a tenant to manage the new centre.

Any interested groups, organisations or business should email Andrew Brooker, the council's interim estate surveyor.

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