A PLAN to transform a historic hall and its substantial grounds in a tourist attraction has generated passionate support and objections ahead of an expected decision later this week.

The Bell family, who have been Lords of the manor of Thirsk since the early 18th century, have seen their proposals to create a sculpture park, featuring monumental sculptures by artists of international fame, receive the backing of Hambleton District Council’s planning officers.

The authority’s planning committee will on Thursday consider a retrospective application for the statues, which are already in place on the 20-acre grounds of grade II* listed Thirsk Hall, as well as plans for a glamping site.

The proposals are part of wider plans for the estate, which include conversion of the old stables to create luxury holiday accommodation, developing a series of outside events, such as pop and classical music concerts, a drive-through cinema and a literary festival.

To make their ancestral home self-sustaining, the Bell family are also planning on hosting a number of open garden days, private house tours and wedding receptions, converting outbuildings for businesses, re-establishing the kitchen garden and launching a farm shop and cafe.

In planning documents a family spokesman said: “Our approach is to build Thirsk Hall as a sustainable centre for the arts. By creating a historical and cultural destination within Thirsk we aim to bring further tourism to Thirsk as well as opportunities for more employment and opportunities for local businesses. Thirsk will be Yorkshire’s art, literature and music capital, like Malton is Yorkshire’s food capital.”

A number of tourism businesses, including the nearby World Of James Herriot, and some residents have said the proposals could serve as a significant boost to the tourism-dependent town, “attracting an up-market clientele and increase visitor spend”.

Dr Helen Metcalfe said: “I cannot express how much I support this venture. The sculpture park would not only make very good use of the beautiful

grounds at Thirsk Hall, it would also add to the local area’s various existing arts, culture and heritage venues and in so doing generate further tourist interest in Thirsk and the surrounding area.”

However residents living close to the hall have complained the scheme would lead to noise and traffic.