Monday, February 15, 2010

James Packer gets his polo complex - 11th February 2010

James Packer has been granted planning permission to build a sprawling new British polo complex reported to be costing about $36 million.

The private facility, on 132.5 hectare Manor Farm, near the tiny West Sussex village of Selham, is not far from Great House Farm, the 38 hectare polo complex at Stedham, owned by his father Kerry during the 1980s.

Polo pitches on the nearby Cowdray Estate were once frequented by polo-loving Prince Charles and Princess Diana and are still a favourite haunt of royals, celebrities and the very wealthy.

Pop star Robbie Williams and billionaire Roman Abramovich both recently owned sprawling estates in the area.

Planning documents outline Mr Packer's intention to make Manor Farm the UK base of his Ellerston polo club.

There had been some local opposition to the plan, partly over increased road and helicopter traffic.

But Chichester District councillors gave the go-ahead during a planning meeting at 11am local time on Wednesday (10pm AEDT).

Ten out of 12 councillors voted in favour of the plan.

It caps a good start to 2010 for Mr Packer.

His wife Erica gave birth to their first son, Jackson, heir to the family's fortune, in early February.

And profits at Mr Packer's troubled Macau casino ventures were reported to be up in January.

His new polo complex will create four full-time jobs and four seasonal posts, the Chichester District Council told AAP.

Three related planning applications, submitted by Conpress (Hong Kong), were also considered by the council.

They outlined Mr Packer's plans to take a lease on Manor Farm, a dairy pasture, and convert it into a polo playing area with associated exercise tracks, stables and yards.

Existing agricultural barns will be converted to stables and seasonal accommodation for grooms.

Locals questioned whether the area was big enough to sustain such a complex.

Others outlined their support for the plan, saying it would bring much-needed investment to the area.

"The proposed new tenant at Manor Farm has a proven track record of making significant improvements at the private facility his family previously established at Stedham," one resident wrote.

Roger Comber, son of the retiring farmer that currently leases Manor Farm, said Mr Packer has proven popular with locals.

"The applicant has proved to be a popular figure and has a proven track record of operation," he wrote.

Kerry Packer faced opposition from local residents, mainly over noise and disruption, when his complex was built in the 1980s.

Selham has a population of just a few hundred, a handful of shops and a single pub - the Three Moles Inn.