The Donkey Sanctuary’s master plan gets go-ahead

The Donkey Sanctuary

The Donkey Sanctuary - Credit: Archant

A master plan to ready The Donkey Sanctuary for an estimated 360,000 annual visitors in the coming years has won the approval of district chiefs.

An artist's impression of how the new restaurant could look

An artist's impression of how the new restaurant could look - Credit: Archant

Bosses at the Sidmouth-based charity can now proceed with their bid for a new café/restaurant, improved access across the site and to increase the size of the car park by 50 per cent.

They are also set to make alterations to the existing barns to provide an enlarged visitors’ centre and shop, as well as upgrades to the staff welfare facilities and better donkey stabling.

The site attracted 280,000 visitors last year, which is projected to rise to 360,000 in 2018 – a tenth of whom are hoped to become active supporters.

Sidmouth Town Council and Branscombe Parish Council both supported the application, subject to the charity obtaining permission to divert a footpath.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) recognised that the charity is a significant visitor attraction and a major employer locally, with around 220 people on-site. It is home to some 2,000 donkeys.

Recommending approval, an EDDC planning officer said: “The resulting scheme would achieve The Donkey Sanctuary’s objectives without harming the character and appearance of the area.”

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Under the proposals, the charity’s veterinary hospital will move away from the visitors’ centre to remove the potential for guests to inadvertently spread disease.

The restaurant capacity will more than triple from 60 inside seats to 200 - with another 36 outside.

The master plan promises a high quality piece of contemporary architecture which will boast sea views.

It aims to establish a single access point from Slade House Farm and integrate a meet and greet facility, shop, visitors’ centre and café/restaurant.

There are also plans to improve the staff facilities with upgraded toilets, showers, changing rooms and break facilities. The planning officer report said that the majority of the changes will have little impact on the coastal preservation area or the area of outstanding natural beauty.

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