Councillors approve multi-million pound visitor centre and arboretum in Soham

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A multi-million pound visitor centre and arboretum project at Soham’s Barcham Trees creating 40 new jobs, has been given the go-ahead by planners, despite concerns about road safety.

The 17-acre development at Europe’s largest tree nursery, which holds a Royal warrant for supplying trees to the Queen, is set to include a lake, 12 acre arboretum, activity areas, shopping area, restaurant and conference facilities, marking a major expansion of the 36-year-old business.

Architects mock-up of the centre

Architects mock-up of the centre

Members of East Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee, meeting on Wednesday, heard Barcham Trees was looking to showcase its specimens to the public and were recommended to approve the plan, which planning officers said would bring economic development and growth in the district.

Emma Watson, who lives close to the development, highlighted safety concerns at the A142 junctions with Eye Hill Drove and Barway Road. “It is a known accident black spot and any changes will be damaging and be a detriment to highway safety,” she said.

Soham North ward councillor Mark Goldsack, who voted in favour of the plan, said he had lost a close friend in an accident at the junction. “This is the hardest planning decision I have been involved in,” he said.

"It is everything we would want to see around Soham but I have grave concerns about Eye Hill Drove. I don’t want my name to be on the list of accidents at that accident cluster.”

A representative from Barcham Trees said there would be no right turn on to the A142 for lorries and visitor coaches leaving the centre. They would have to go left and use the The Shade roundabout.