Plans unveiled for £50m food, farming and environment centre

PLANS ARE being developed to build a £50m food, farming and environment centre – on a similar scale to Cornwall’s Eden Project – in the south east of England.


Farmer Ian Nelson of Sunnyfields Organic has drawn up a detailed 350-page scoping study for the proposed scheme which he believes would bring huge benefits to farmers and the wider community.


The scoping study, which has been funded by DEFRA LEADER+ and the South East England Development Agency, suggests that the centre should include a farm shop, restaurants, research and training facilities, wildlife and environmental interpretation centres, conference facilities and other visitor attractions.


It argues that the initiative would offer local and regional producers a valuable outlet for their produce. It would also provide facilities to help improve public understanding of farming, food and the environment.


“We are looking to be a tourist attraction, conference facilities, a local shopping centre, an international attraction and an education centre. You name it, we want to be it,” says Mr Nelson.


“In terms of its aims and objectives the project is absolutely massive. We want conference facilities for 1000 people. We want children on adventure courses and for Saturday morning activities. We want cafés alongside lakes, we want processing facilities for farmers, and a place for everyone to try and buy all the produce.”


Although Mr Nelson says he would be keen to hear suggestions about possible sites for the centre, he has already identified a 200-acre one, close to Southampton, which he thinks would be fantastic.


“It is a brilliant site, because it is an old gravel pit nearing the end of its life, and because of our transport links with the M3 and M27. It is right on the boundary of the New Forest National Park. The place has everything going for it.”


For more detail about the project and an explantion of who Ian Nelson is, see the latest issue of FARMERS WEEKLY out Jun 10.