The owner of an unauthorised “luxury” camping site branded “worse than a detention centre” has defended her bid to open the attraction permanently.
Jane Mapp launched Walnut Tree Glamping in the picture-postcard village of Westbere, near Canterbury, in April, using a temporary post-Covid licence to operate.
But her plans to seek full planning permission have sparked outrage among villagers, who claim the £140-a-night site is a blight on the countryside.
Their views are shared by many disgruntled guests, with Tripadvisor and booking.com littered with a series of one-star reviews.
One visitor likened the site to the setting of horror film The Hills Have Eyes, while another exclaimed: “I wouldn’t let my dog stay here!”
But Miss Mapp blames the negative feedback on “teething problems” and says improvements have been made at attraction, which has six bell tents.
“What we have is very small-scale – I don’t think villagers have anything to be frightened of,” she told KentOnline.
Miss Mapp’s bid for retrospective planning permission has sparked almost 50 objections, including from the parish council and the Westbere Preservation Society.
The concerns relate to traffic and access to the site, late-night noise nuisance and its impact on the countryside.
Reviews are less than favourable, with all four on Tripadvisor giving the Walnut Tree a “terrible” one star out of five rating.
The most recent, posted on Monday, says: “Turned up at the place, within minutes we left. I’ve seen detention centres in better states then that.
“The beds were dirty and the entrance was like The Hills Have Eyes, or another horror film.”
Anthony unhappy glamper wrote in May: “Totally disgusting place. I would not let my dog stay there. Pile of old mattresses on site, a deflated hot tub, dirty and cold and portable loos that were disgusting.”
The flavour of the feedback is similar on booking.com, where 12 days ago one reviewer posted: “Facilities were dirty, the so called swimming pool had about 100 dead horse flies in it and was filthy (not one person used it). The shower was a disgrace!”
However, another guest applauded the setting, posting on Monday: “The views are amazing. The hot tub and the pool are a great addition.”
Another reviewer reported: “Brilliant location, clean and comfortable accommodation, all round enjoyable and fun get away, would definitely recommend.”
Miss Mapp, who also runs a livery yard on the land she rents, says she has a new portable loo provider and is pledging to make further improvements if she secures planning permission.
“It is a fantastic place,” she said. “The views are absolutely amazing.
“We started organising the actual plot here to get things ready and pretty and really blending in with the environment, so it didn’t stand out too much.
“And obviously we had terrible problems with companies, with toilets. They let us down, and we’ve addressed those and learned by the reviews.
“We’ve learned by what people asked for.
“We had some poor reviews to start with because of teething problems, but are now getting some glowing ones.”
But Miss Mapp faces overwhelming opposition from villagers.
Parish council chairman Paul Glover says the glamping site has caused considerable upset among residents.
In its formal objection to the proposal, the authority lists an increase in traffic in the village’s narrow lanes, and incidents of excessive noise and anti-social behaviour as significant factors.
Members also say the camp-site has a detrimental impact on the surrounding countryside.
They conclude: “This retrospective planning application has no positive benefit to the village, only a detrimental impact on residents and the conservation area.
“To summarise and enforce, this is a totally unsuitable site in a rural village to sustain such a business.”
Miss Mapp says the concerns are unfounded.
“People run on fear, especially in a little village,” she said.
“I can understand their fears. It’s something different, change; people panic and it ripples through the village.”
Miss Mapp says she created the glamping business because the horse livery would have “gone under” without it.
“It’s a beautiful location which guests enjoy, and I am just trying to keep my head above water,” she said.
“But I’ve been to hell and back with it all.”
She argues the impact of traffic is less than if the livery was running at full capacity.
“I have even set up a foundation with the hope of helping disadvantaged families enjoy the countryside and nature here,” she added.
“A lot of people can’t just go to any site, especially when they have special needs or are disabled. Our sole goal is to give everybody the opportunity to be outdoors and enjoy themselves.”
The planning application also highlights the fact campers provide a boost to the village pub and local shops in Sturry.
published 2022-08-15 12:57:34