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Hazel Blears steps in to approve Holder Mathias' Center Parcs scheme

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Holder Mathias' controversial proposals to build a new Center Parcs village on a green belt site in Bedfordshire have been approved by communities minister Hazel Blears.

The Secretary of State's decision flies in the face of the planning inspector's findings, which had supported a previous decision by Mid-Bedfordshire District Council to reject outline permission for the £200 million development in the heart of Warren Wood, near Woburn (Holder Mathias' Bedfordshire holiday resort plans stall).

Both the inspector and the local authority had held that the scheme to build 700 forest lodges, a spa, swimming pool and a 75-bed hotel would breach policies aimed at protecting green belt land.

However, Blears argued that the economic benefits would outweigh the policy issues.

She said: 'Having carefully considered the proposal, [I] consider that, in this particular case, the economic and employment benefits of the proposal, when taken together with the ecological and biodiversity benefits and all the other advantages identified above, constitute very special circumstances and are sufficient to clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt.'

The 148ha scheme will be Center Parcs' fifth such project in the UK, and work is expected to start on site in 2009.

The first visitors are expected in 2010.

by Richard Waite

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