VILLAGERS are celebrating after a Government planning inspector rejected controversial plans for hundreds of homes on land around an exclusive spa in Thorpe-le-Soken.

Thorpe Hall Leisure launched an appeal over its plans for 200 residential units on land around the Lifehouse Spa and Hotel, in Frinton Road, last year after the application was rejected by Tendring Council.

But following a planning inquiry, held in November and April at Weeley Council Chambers, Government planning inspector Diane Lewis has now dismissed the appeal.

Thorpe Parish Council strongly objected to the plans and Tendring Council received 467 letters of opposition, many claiming the plans would damage the historic Thorpe Hall parkland.

The Lifehouse’s owners previously said the spa – which opened in 2010 as part of a major £30 million investment – has become a success, but needs investment to secure its future.

Thorpe, Beaumont and Great Holland councillor Dan Land, who spoke at the appeal hearing, said: “We are overjoyed by this decision.

“Many people have given three years of their time to fight this.

“The spa’s financial issues are not Thorpe residents’ problem and it is right that they shouldn’t be allowed to build on historically important land.

“I want to thank everyone who got behind this campaign and who lodged an objection.”

A report said the applicant bought the property from the receivers in March 2012 with a debt of £8.5million and with debt repayments of approximately £350,000 per year.

The business strategy has led to an increase in visitors and by 2017 the performance was stable.

Thorpe Hall Leisure said the proposal was central to the ongoing financial security of the spa.

But the inspector said that even with the proposed capital investment, there is no certainty that its future will be safeguarded.

She added: “The Lifehouse hotel and spa is an important local business and employer and positively contributes to tourism in the area.

“An injection of funding may well reduce the risk to the business, provide opportunities for its development and safeguard employment in the short term.

“However, the business justification for release of the land to large scale housing development has limited weight when placed in a broader planning policy and economic context.”