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What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander farmer tells Fenland Council

One event using same road was to support NECCA (North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association)

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Cambridgeshire farmer John Anker – hoping to expand his weddings and holiday business near Whittlesey – says if the private ‘shared tarmac road’ is good enough for councillors to attend functions at other houses nearby, it is good enough for his guests.

Mr Anker, and his wife Andrea, were granted a music and alcohol licence for events at Old Chapel Farm on Eldernell Lane in Coates,  Whittlesey, last October.

Neighbours fought the application over noise and anti-social behaviour fears – one even telling the licensing hearing the Ankers would be “profiting from the misery” of others – but the licence was granted.

But now the Ankers, who began the business in the summer of 2021, have applied for full planning permission (part of the application retrospective) to allow them to expand.

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“Mr and Mrs Anker could continue to exercise their right to host weddings under the permitted development rights, however they wish to make it more official and long term, adding flexibility and enabling more ceremonies to be held each year, allowing growth of the business,” says their agent Peter Humphrey and Associates Ltd.

And to support their contention that access is not an issue they have referred to events previously held at four other large homes along Eldernell Lane.

“Various large parties along with charitable fund-raising events have also taken place at several of the private addresses along the private road in Eldernell,” says their agents.

They add that “some of which were very large, and were well publicised, due several of the guests being well known business people, members of Government and Fenland councillors”.

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The agent quotes a MENCAP ball held at one of the addresses, and also events held to support NECCA (North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association).

There had also been casino evenings at one of the homes, and a ‘potato baron’s ball’ held at another.

The agent listed “firework parties and large celebration birthday parties” held at houses in Eldernell, some attracting over 200 guests plus staff at any one time.

John and Andrea Anker have applied to Fenland District Council for Old Chapel Farm at 102 Eldernell, Coates, Whittlesey, for full planning permission (part of the application retrospective) to allow them to expand their wedding and events venue. PHOTO: Old Chapel Farm

John and Andrea Anker have applied to Fenland District Council for Old Chapel Farm at 102 Eldernell, Coates, Whittlesey, for full planning permission (part of the application retrospective) to allow them to expand their wedding and events venue. PHOTO: Old Chapel Farm

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“All of these were carried out without any issues or complaints being made to any of the authorities,” claims the agent.

The application by the Ankers centres on a proposed change of use of Old Chapel Farm, Eldernell Lane, Coates, for official use as a venue for ceremonies.

Mr and Mrs Ankers own Old Chapel Farm which features two houses and associated buildings.

They also own a neighbouring house, an ancillary building described as The Lodge, and “a significant amount of the surrounding land”.

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If agreed planning permission is granted they will be allowed to use site as a venue for birthdays, christenings, baby showers and weddings – including civil marriages and civil partnerships.

The Ankers says the site is at the end of a private shared tarmac road, accessed via Eldernell Lane, surrounded by fields and adjoining woodland.

The nearest neighbour is 243m from the main venue building.

And the site benefits from a longstanding right of way to use the private section of Eldernell Lane “which has enabled the applicant to run a range of agricultural and commercial businesses from No.88 since 1960’s”.

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The Ankers own No.88 and rent this out as a holiday let.

“In some cases, the customer/hosts of an event will stay at No.88 with their immediate family and hold their event in the proposed venue,” says Humphrey and Associates.

“Mr and Mrs Anker have identified a significant local need for a ceremony venue, especially a non-religious based venue for wedding ceremonies and receptions, including civil marriages and civil partnerships,” says the agents.

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“The applicants have the buildings, land and location that are suited to this proposed venture and are regularly contacted by people asking to host weddings, which is where the idea came from.

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“To date, Mr and Mrs Anker have successfully hosted 10 events on site, including weddings, birthdays, and christenings, for a range of nationalities and genders.

“All of these previous events were held under permitted development rights for temporary use (and in most cases) with the associated temporary event notices.

John and Andrea Anker have applied to Fenland District Council for Old Chapel Farm at 102 Eldernell, Coates, Whittlesey, for full planning permission (part of the application retrospective) to allow them to expand their wedding and events venue. PHOTO: Old Chapel Farm

John and Andrea Anker have applied to Fenland District Council for Old Chapel Farm at 102 Eldernell, Coates, Whittlesey, for full planning permission (part of the application retrospective) to allow them to expand their wedding and events venue. PHOTO: Old Chapel Farm

“Mr and Mrs Anker could continue to exercise their right to host weddings under the permitted development rights, however they wish to make it more official and long term, adding flexibility and enabling more ceremonies to be held each year, allowing growth of the business.”

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Humprey and Associates claim the proposal won’t directly compete with existing town centre venues “as it offers a vastly different feel and setting, to suit customers with those specific needs that aren’t typically on offer in a town centre location.

Mr and Mrs Anker do not expect to host an event every day of the week, as it would not be feasible, or nor would the venue be ready in time, but for flexibility they wish to apply for an ‘operational window’ of Wednesday to Sunday.

“It is anticipated that within this window, a maximum of 2 events per week would take place, taking into account set-up and clean-up times.”

The agents add: “The proposed development will utilise the existing site access and private tarmac shared drive, leading from Eldernell Lane to the premises. Although the drive is not wide enough for 2-way passing traffic, the drive is relatively straight and there are various areas used for vehicle passing along its length.”

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So far as parking is concerned, the agents say four spaces will remain at 102.

However, to comply with council policies, 57 parking spaces will be needed on site to meet parking guidelines.

“Sufficient parking provision has been allocated on the proposed site plan, to meet this requirement, as well as additional overflow grass parking,” says the application.

“The venue building is limited to a maximum number of 120 guests, being the ultimate guest limit for the site, limited by the premises licence and insurance.

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“It must be noted that based on previous events held to date, the actual number is anticipated to be far less, at approx. 30-50 guests for birthday/christenings and 80 guests for weddings.

“To date, most have generated a maximum of 30 cars, being far lower than the parking guidelines based on floor area.

“Where possible, guests will be encouraged to arrive in minibuses, which will reduce the vehicle movements in and out of the site.

“The applicants will also ensure a taxi service is available on site for the end of all events.”

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The Ankers emphasise in their application the boost it will give to local trades such as catering, supplies, decorations, flowers, disco equipment/DJ’s, and hiring of furniture and props.

“This will generate a significant amount of work for local businesses and no doubt lead to employment creation in those sectors,” they have told the council.

“The proposal will also generate the potential need for nearby accommodation, which helps boost the local economy in a number of ways by people staying in nearby towns in villages in the various BnB’s and hotels and spending their money with other local amenities and establishments.”

Full information available on the planning portal of Fenland District Council 

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F/YR24/0040/F | Change of use of existing garage/store and associated land to a venue for ceremonies, including the formation of a car park (part retrospective) | The Manor House 102 Eldernell Lane Coates Peterborough Cambridgeshire PE7 2DD

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