Plans for a new farm experience centre and lodge park in County Durham have been submitted by Hedley Planning Services for approval.

Under the proposals, a new barn building will be constructed on a site at Woodlands Park Farm in Knitsley near Consett along with up to 37 holiday lodges, many of which will accommodate families who have a family member with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Research indicates that people with special needs can benefit enormously from interacting with farm animals and the Woodlands Park Farm centre could develop into a much needed resource that will be enjoyed by people from across the UK.

In England and Wales, 1 in 6 people have activity limiting health problems or disability, while across County Durham, an estimated 14% of pupils in the education system have special education and disability needs.

The new facility will also be able to cater for those living with mental health problems, dementia, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including former armed services personnel.

Joe Ridgeon, director of North East planning consultants Hedley Planning Services, who has submitted the application to the local planning authority, said the development would offer a unique farm experience: “This is an exciting development that will contribute significantly to the well being and life experience of hundreds of disadvantaged and disabled people from across the region.

“As planners, we want to see the creation of exciting and rewarding schemes in the north east region that will leave a long-lasting legacy. Woodlands Park Farm will undoubtedly have a significant impact for years to come.”