A NEW arts and crafts centre has been approved at the Abbotsbury Tithe Barn.

It will see the space where children used to pet animals replaced by artisan craft units, each with a sales area.

The Ilchester Estates planning application approved by Dorset Council allows for some new wooden windows, doors and stud walls in the former cattle barn which was first granted consent for visitor use in 1996.

The area to be transformed was used, until 2019, for a children’s area for soft play and where they could pet small animals such as guinea pigs. It also featured an artificial cow which could be ‘milked.’

The conversion will see the creation of three self-contained workshops, each of the resident artists selected for their appeal to visitors. In the longer term this may be expanded to 11 commercial units on the site, together with catering, making it a hub for local arts and crafts.

“The vision is that each workshop has a manufacturing space from which the visitors can view the crafts men and women at work with a separate retail space for the sale of crafts,” said a supporting document with the application.

Application papers for the planning consent say the external areas will remain largely unaltered with only relatively minor changes to the interior retaining much of the original farm building for the future: “Utilising the building as a craft or retail space will enable the creation of an increased commercial floor area whilst still enabling an appreciation of the former use and plan form of the building,” said one of the documents with the application.

The estate says that artists and craftspeople will be chosen for the wider benefit of the centre, not for the financial return they might bring, for their skills and likely attraction to visitors as well as achieving the correct balance with others artists and craftspeople.

Historic England, Dorset Council’s archaeologist and conservation officer had all been consulted and did not raise any objections, a view shared by Chesil Bank parish council.