Kenilworth area charity looking for support from public for pending planning application

Kate and Simon Morris at Spencer's Retreat farm in Berkswell near Kenilworth
Kate and Simon Morris at Spencer's Retreat farm in Berkswell near Kenilworth

A Kenilworth area charity is looking for support from the public as part of a pending planning application needed to continue their work.

The Spencer's Retreat charity will host an 'open day' event this weekend to show people around the farm and sharing their plans for the future of the charity.

The charity has submitted a planning application to the Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council for the change of use of land and existing buildings from agricultural use to a children's farm with the erection of additional animal enclosures and the resurfacing of the road to the farm.

The charity must apply for the change of use because of the public accessing the farm.

The application includes resurfacing the entrance to the farm, which is a dirt road that often become impassable during inclement weather.

Simon Morris, the chairman of The Langdale Trust, which manages the Spencer’s Retreat charity in Berkswell near Kenilworth, said: "We need as many people as possible to please support this and say how Spencer's Retreat is beneficial and needed locally.

"We need the support of everyone, local businesses, local people and neighbours."

Here's where you can register online and submit your comments.

The charity, a six-acre property set back from the main road in Berkswell about five miles north of Kenilworth, provides a farm for children with special needs and their families to have fun outside with a variety of rescue animals.

Simon and Kate Morris, who manage the property, have two children on the autism spectrum and the couple’s vision for the retreat is: “The heart of our vision is to provide children with special needs and their families a safe space to unwind, explore and learn, reducing anxiety and creating positive experiences.”

But the charity needs help in order for them to help others.

The animals on the property include two kune pigs, three saddleback pigs and four pygmy goats. They also have some rare breed Manx sheep, which Simon said there are only 800 left in all of the UK.

Having rescue animals at the retreat really goes along with the theme of a retreat providing a safe place for others in need.

The planning application also includes a request for additional stable block to they can plan toward the future.

They have already converted four stables into a relaxing indoor sitting and lounge-like area, with an outdoor sitting area and sandpit for children.

Kate added: “It’s about creating a positive experience for the whole family, including the siblings as well. It’s about making a support network for people.

“Our retreat is at the end of a farm track and in the winter requires maintenance. Sometimes the track becomes impassable when the weather of particularly wet as it turns to mud.

The charity needs people to submit comments of support to the Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.

Simon added: "It takes just over one minute to register and two minutes to make a comment. But those three minutes will help Spencer’s Retreat to keep helping children and families for many years to come.

"Please help if you can. If our application fails then it's the end of the road for the retreat and the charity. It would be a massive loss to our community and families."

Go along for free home made cakes, hot and cold drinks for the open day even this Sunday (January 19) from 10.30am to 1.30pm at the retreat's farm property located in Spencer's Lane, Berkswell, CV7 7BY.

Some of the comments already registered with the planning application include:

- "I would like to recommend Spencer’s retreat, we took our little grandson here on August 21st.

"Jamie has a genetic condition, he is non-verbal, with global development delay, and sensory processing disorder. We had an amazing visit to this inspirational farm, Jamie was able to run around in a safe environment, it’s so hard to find somewhere to take Jamie to when he stays with us.

"He had a lovely morning playing in the sand pit, and visiting all the animals and feeding them. It was also wonderful to meet other families, having fun, no looks, no stares, no one being judgemental. It’s a relaxed atmosphere. We will be visiting Spencer’s Retreat when we have our grandson to stay. A big thank you to everyone, and please continue to make our special children happy."

- Since September I have visited Spencer's Retreat six times with my 11-year-old daughter Annabelle.

"Each visit has been a very positive experience for Annabelle. She has thoroughly enjoyed feeding the animals and the calmness of the retreat. For Annabelle, these experiences have been particularly valuable as she is both an animal-lover and autistic.

"I can think of nowhere else in this locality that offers autistic children the combination of a hands-on experience with animals and also such a peaceful, restful environment.

"Spencer's Retreat is unique and immensely valuable for young people with autism and their families; for often anxious children it is a welcome haven. For their families it is a place where ill-informed judgements and assumptions about autism are left behind. I have seen first-hand how Annabelle has developed her nurturing skills for the animals while her stress levels have diminished greatly.

I am certain that Spencer's Retreat provides the very best of appropriate provision for a vulnerable group and I strongly believe it deserves the utmost support from all of us."

- Visiting to see all the animals has been wonderful for my daughter's anxiety. The peace and calm have been balm to her soul and she leaves happier than I have seen in a long time. We loved being able to pet all the animals and watch the antics of piglets and goats.

"I'm also a special needs teacher and all my families have been excited to hear about your place because there are so few places that they can take their children without fear of complaints, staring at their young person or a place being inaccessible. Can't wait to organise another visit with my class this time."