Work is set to start on the final phase of building works at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens following the granting of planning approval by Horsham District Council.
The 200-acre historic gardens at Lower Beeding have been closed to the public since 2010 and public anticipation of their reopening has grown since businesswoman Penny Streeter bought the estate last year.
But it is still not yet known exactly when the Grade I listed gardens - famed for their wallabies - will re-open their gates. It had originally been planned to reopen to the public this spring, but the reopening was later postponed to July - then again to January next year.
Now, says owner Penny: “We will announce a confirmed date to open as soon as we can.”
Previously the gardens attracted around 50,000 visitors a year until they were closed by the then owner. New owner Penny Streeter, who also owns the nearby Mannings Heath Golf Course and Wine Estate, as well as businesses in South Africa, has employed a team in a major investment programme of renovation of both the gardens and the estate’s Italianate mansion.
But works have been held up in a wait for planning approval and the discovery of protected species of bats and newts on the site. However, planning officials gave the final go-ahead last week.
Said Penny: “We can now begin completion of the final phase of the essential building works that will enable us to open the estate to the public. This is great news, but the scale of the work required is such that we will not be able to confirm the future opening date until December 1, we anticipate. We will announce a confirmed date to open as soon as we can.
“We are now focusing our efforts on completing the next and final phase, which includes building a car park and ticket office, as well as developing a new public entrance from the road.
“There are a range of factors that affect the timing of completion, not least being the weather conditions, given that the work is outdoors and we are coming into winter soon.
“The issue of getting planning permission has been directly responsible for the delay in opening Leonardslee. We can now move ahead with new confidence.
“It has all been incredibly frustrating for us - and for supporters of this major project to restore and reopen Leonardslee to the public.”