Businessman behind the Eden Project sparks neighbour fury over plans for new age cookery school 

2 months ago 5

The multi-millionaire businessman behind Cornwall's Eden Project has caused fury among locals with plans to turn a disused golf course into a new age cookery school.

They have accused Sir Tim Smit of 'green-washing' his new development project which they say is little more than an upmarket holiday complex with a large house for him.

In planning documents, the businessman, who has been likened to an amalgam of Richard Branson, Sting and Gandhi, sets out his vision to transform Lostwithiel Golf Course in Cornwall into 'Gillyflower Farm'.

The Farm, he says, will bring the past back to life and provide a 'centre for the teaching and learning of agronomy' – the science and technology of producing and using plants.

Sir Tim Smit, the businessman behind the Eden Project, wants to turn Lostwithiel Golf Course in Cornwall into 'Gillyflower Farm', an eco centre for the teaching and learning of agronomy'. He has submitted artists impressions (above) to the council

The artist impression plans (above) submitted to Cornwall Council show how 'Gillyflower Farm' will look. The venture will include 20 'eco-lodges', a 164-seat restaurant, a cider press, distillery and a 'home for the owner'

Not everyone is happy with the proposals in the village of Lostwithiel where 3,000 people live. Play therapist Amanda Barras is one of those objecting to the proposals. She submitted this photo to the council show how the view will be obstructed 

The plans submitted on behalf of Sir Tim show what the 'home for the owner' will look like (above), which will sit on the site

His plans, submitted to Cornwall Council, include 20 'eco-lodges', a 164-seat restaurant, a cider press, distillery and a 'home for the owner'.

Dutch-born Sir Tim, 66, made millions as a record producer before moving to the UK and  becoming an eco-warrior 

One furious local said: 'He's applied for planning consent on a greenfield site, way outside the development boundary, including a massive 'owner's house' for himself, in a style and a location where no one else would stand a cat's chance in hell of getting permission. He's just greenwashing the project with a bit of guff about conservation.'

Dutch-born Sir Tim, 66, originally made millions as a record producer working with stars such as Barry Manilow, Twiggy and Alvin Stardust.

But since a move to Cornwall in the 1980s, where he invested to restore the Lost Gardens of Heligan, he has reinvented himself as an eco-warrior.

In 2001, he opened the Eden Project, which attracts 850,000 visitors a year and is unofficially known as the eighth wonder of the world. He was knighted in 2011.

But his critics say that while the Eden Project has added over £1billion to the Cornish economy, the rural communities surrounding his schemes have seen little benefit while house prices have soared.

And many of those critics are to be found among the 3,000 residents of Lostwithiel, the ancient county capital, who are up in arms at this latest proposal.

Jane Stanley, 59, a retired business owner from the village told MailOnline: 'Lostwithiel is a unique town in Cornwall, in a great way.

'All our shops are independent, people come here for the community - we are not a tourist town and we don't want to be like Fowey, Polperro, or Mevagissey - that's not what we're about.

'In reality everyone is against this, except for a few business owners who think they will benefit from it.'

Locals say that Sir Tim is so confident his plans will get the go-ahead that he has already started knocking down hedges to create access points to the 'Farm'. 

An aerial view shows the site in Lostwithiel, Cornwall, that Sir Tim, 66, wants to transform the villages disused nine hole golf course into a cookery school with a cafe, eco-hut accommodation an orchard and it's own microbrewery 

And they are concerned that his project will simply mean more second homes in the area and drive-up house prices.

Play therapist Amanda Barras, 52, said: 'People will want to buy holiday homes near it, that will raise house prices and could force out local people.

'We question why he's doing it now, through lockdown. He's already started building, it's like he's doing it regardless.’ 

Sir Tim claims he wants to give the public a taste some of Europe's lost and little-known produce by growing them in the farm's kitchen garden and cooking them at the cookery school.

He said: 'This will be a reservoir of rare European vegetables. Many of them are unfamiliar to the British palate.

'Our ambition is to grow them and then allow the public to taste them because one of the projects on the site will be a cookery school with a tasting kitchen.

Critics of the scheme have argued that with 20 'eco-lodges' (pictured) the project is merely a money-making holiday resort

Cornwall Council received 138 comments on the controversial application before it consultation process ended on Thursday

An overall aerial view of the plans show the vast project will include the cookery school, fruit store, microbrewery, cider press, distillery as well as a fruit press, 164-seat restaurant and staff room

'We are going to try to find a range of crops that can be grown and make Lostwithiel the centre of new food crops.'

But suspicions abound and critics insist he is a hard-nosed businessman rather than a benign green guru. 

In one strongly-worded submission to planners, local Michael Batte said: ‘It is perhaps surprising that the applicant (who projects that he is a proponent of nature and wildlife) seems to be fully prepared to destroy it where it does not fit in with his agenda.

‘The size, scale and number of buildings proposed for the site are completely disproportionate to the development's claimed primary purpose.’

Sir Tim, pictured in 2000 outside his most famous creation, the Eden Project, in St Austell, Cornwall, is not afraid of ruffling a few feathers to turn his dreams into reality 

Cornwall Council received 138 comments on the controversial application before their consultation process ended on Thursday.

A decision on the project is expected by April 15.

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