FEARS have been sparked among residents by plans to build nearly 300 homes, including a number of three-storey apartment blocks, at an exclusive holiday village in the Cotswold Water Park.

Lower Mill Estate, on the edge of Somerford Keynes, offers a luxurious second home retreat to the rich and famous, gated off from the wider community.

The estate is based on a 600 acre nature reserve with a £6 million spa at its heart. It currently comprises of 250 dwellings, ranging from £300,000 to more than £2.5 million.

In 2000 outline planning permission was granted for 575 homes and Lower Mill Estate owner Jeremy Paxton says the current application is simply to add detail to that.

But some residents are worried that these plans will result in more noise and more traffic in the area.

The application, which is to be decided by Cotswold District Council, proposes a further 296 holiday units and a 15 acre lake, plus estate roads and parking, storage barns, play space and an electricity sub station located close to Minety Lane and lakes 45, 46 and 48.

If successful, the new build would see the number of holiday homes on the estate more than double.

But objections have been raised about the build of 18 three-storey apartment blocks, each containing eight apartments.

Somerford Keynes Parish Council vice chairman Sarah Powell said: “These apartment blocks will be visible to residents and are a move away from the Cotswold village feel of the estate.”

Many letters of support have been received by Mr Paxton by local residents and contractors in favour of the changes.

Bricklaying contractor Glen Sims wrote: “Having worked at Lower Mill as a main Contractor for the past five years, I have seen the surrounding area transform into a vibrant destination for holiday makers. Lower Mill accounts for 95% of our turnover as a business, and has helped move my business forward, employing up to 20 personnel on site when in full production.”

Following a meeting with some of the Lower Mill and Somerford Keynes residents, Ms Powell said: “We know it’s going to happen. But the view is to make sure they don’t break any of the existing agreements that protect residents.”

She said: “Our main concern is that the new houses, which are as big as eight bedroom homes, will bring a lot more traffic and noise to the area and we don’t believe there are enough facilities within the estate to contain that traffic.”

Mr Paxton says this year has been their busiest for sales at Lower Mill Estate since 2007, and there is currently a waiting list of 14 months for potential buyers.

He said: “It could take up to 20 years to complete the plans, but we will be looking to sell the first of the properties next year.”

The council and residents are also concerned about plans for a facilities building on the edge of an agreed noise buffer zone, just 250 metres from the Spine Road.

Ms Powell said: “This buffer zone was created to protect Somerford Keynes residents from any disturbance from the estate, but the plans are creeping into this area with a maintenance building, which will be noisy.”

However, Mr Paxton says they are now planning to move the facilities building away from the zone to replace a block of stables on the estate.

Previous applications to expand have prompted concern amongst residents of Lower Mill, who fear the owner is trying to turn the retreat into a tourist hotspot.

But Mr Paxton said the estate was a result of his passion to harmonise wildlife with people and exciting modern architecture.

He said: “The impact of these units were considered before planning permission was granted and so noise, traffic and the facilities buildings were all thought about then and all of the mitigation measures put in place to deal with them, including extensive cycle-ways.”

He added: “Our commitment to ecology extends to 15 years worth of wildlife audits and we now have over 4,000 different species of wildlife.”

In 2005, the estate invested £1 million in a project to re-introduce beavers to the wild for the first time in England for 500 years.

Around 70 percent of properties are privately owned and can be lived in for 11 months of the year, with the rest rented out to holidaymakers.