Approval sought for changes at historic village beauty spot


Planning permission is being sought for a number of improvements at a once-popular beauty spot - home to families of wallabies and deer - scheduled to re-open to the public this summer.

The works - at the historic Leonardslee Gardens in Lower Beeding - include a kitchen garden with a greenhouse, polytunnels and planting beds for vegetables to serve a new restaurant on the estate.

The gardens have been closed since 2010 when they were bought by a mystery buyer then left to deteriorate.

Now new owners of the 200-acre lakes and gardens - which previously attracted around 50,000 visitors a year - are hoping to re-open to the public in July.

They are currently seeking planning approval from Horsham District Council for the kitchen garden, enlarged parking area, greenhouse improvements, refurbished and extended toilets and improvements to access and exit routes.

In a report to the council from architects Donald Insall Associates, they maintain: “The proposals support the return of Leonardslee House to its optimum viable use.”

Leonardslee was bought last year by South African-based businesswoman Penny Streeter who also owns the Benguela Collection vineyard and hospitality group - which includes the 400-acre Mannings Heath Golf Course and Wine Estate, close to Leonardslee.

Since then workers have been working round the clock in a bid to restore the gardens to their former glory. It had been hoped to re-open the estate to the public in March, but delays have been caused by poor weather, the discovery of protected species of newts and bats and the need to upgrade the site to meet safety and environmental standards.

The gardens were first planted in 1801 and are noted for outstanding displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, magnolias, spring flowers and its rock garden.