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Full steam ahead, say Cherkley Court developers
After winning a lengthy legal battle that cost it millions, a property developer said it plans to press on without further delay in transforming a historic estate into a world-class hotel, golf course, and spa.
Tim Edwards, one of four directors of Longshot Cherkley Court, whose number includes Joel Cadbury of the chocolate dynasty, said they want to start building work on the nearly 400-acre Cherkley Court estate as soon as possible and complete it by summer 2016.
On Friday Mr Edwards proudly showed off the stunning art deco decor including Winston Churchill’s bath and the private cinema where the iconic leader once quaffed whiskey with press baron and owner Lord Beaverbrook.
In the morning room boasting a large chandelier and panoramic views, Mr Edwards said the High Court battle and quashing of planning permission until a Court of Appeal ruling in their favour last week, had cost the company many millions of pounds.
Asked whether they would respect a plea from campaigners not to touch Forty Acre Field, an area of great biodiversity, until a possible challenge to the Supreme Court has been settled, Mr Edwards said: "I don’t think there is anything to respect.
"We have planning permission which is agreed with all the environmentalists on the council, with all the ecologists, with all the biodiversity issues.
"The campaigners really just want to stop us doing this. I think they are disregarding really the quality of what we intend to reinstate on that area.
"For us, it has been quite a torturous process, very emotional and very costly.
"We want to get on with something that we think will add a lot to the community in terms of jobs and management of an estate that would otherwise be lost to the public."
When asked if Andy Murray is still an investor in the over £50 million pound development, Mr Edwards, said: "No investor has gone away, I would rather not comment on individual investors."
Last week three Lord Justices at the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court judgement that had quashed planning permission at the end of a lengthy judicial review brought by countryside campaigners, the Cherkley Campaign.
Mr Edwards said: "Personally it was an emotional relief, but something that I expected would be granted. It was a relief and a feeling of vindication."
The Cherkley Campaign, which had won the judicial review over the way Mole Valley councillors granted planning permission, has not given up and now plans to seek leave to appeal at the Supreme Court.
But Mr Edwards said: "Personally I would be surprised if it goes to the Supreme Court. It’s ironic because when Mole Valley Council decided to go to the Court of Appeal, the campaigners made a big issue of the public funds being risked and spent.
"Having had three judges of immense seniority and intellect decide the shock verdict of Mr Justice Haddon-Cave was firmly wrong, they now want to engage more public funds in going to the Supreme Court."
He believes the campaigners do not appreciate the extraordinary lengths they are going to in order to protect all aspects of the landscape, right down to its Roman snails.
He said: "We are not developing a factory here, we are not fracking, we are not building a nuclear power plant.
"We are actually building something that embraces the biodiversity and ecology and enhances it."
He said the development will be a "jewel in the crown" of Mole Valley just as Epsom Downs Racecourse, Hampton Court and Windsor Castles are in surrounding boroughs.
He added: "Not that we put ourselves in those categories, but it will be something that will be nationally important, will be internationally recognised and that can be nothing but good for Mole Valley.
"It has to be the best in the country, it has to be the best in the world at what it does."
His fellow directors include Cadbury’s lifelong friend and business partner Ollie Vigors and Ian Todd, consultant to the chairman at IMG International.
The house’s illustrious past is central to their vision and they plan to put together a book to celebrate its history.
Poet Rudyard Kipling introduced the legendary Lord Beaverbrook to Cherkley Court who purchased the property and hosted some of Britain's most powerful people of the day there.
At the end of the interview, Mr Edwards said he wanted the public to feel they too have "emotional ownership" of the house.
With a smile, he said: "It’s a wonderful place and it’s only once in a lifetime that you get to do something like this."
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