Flying saucer site could become travellers’ pitches

IT once housed an iconic building but now the former flying saucer land at Alconbury could become a travellers’ site.

An application has been made to Huntingdonshire District Council to allow six traveller/gypsy pitches to be built on the land where the Megatron building, a former McDonald’s restaurant, once stood.

The flying saucer was torn down in June 2008 in spite of a request that English Heritage should “list” it as being of architectural or historical importance.

Since then the land has remained empty.

But bringing the site into use for travellers is not appropriate, said Steve Thorogood, managing director of Admiral Homespace, which is based next door.

Mr Thorogood has written to HDC to oppose the scheme. He believes it will not only impact on his business, but could put families living on the site at risk from the HGVs that visit Admiral Homespace.

“The development of the site for use by gypsies would severely impact on the number of potential clients wishing to visit our showrooms,” he said.

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“The adjoining land owner recently let out the land to the other side of our premises to a caravan retail company that sells mainly to gypsy families.

“They erected a sub-standard hand built fence and gateway to their land. This was an eyesore, half of which blew over in the first strong wind. No attempt was made to repair the damage and we were left to clear up afterwards when the caravan company decided that they no longer needed the site.”

As well as HGVs visiting his business, Mr Thorogood pointed out that Alconbury airfield has been given enterprise zone status as part of a huge development project that will involve decades of work and a massive increase in traffic in the area.

“The general safety of the children on the site would be of great concern without high fencing to the entire boundary. This would give the effect of the families being ‘penned in’ which is surely against the current guidelines for such sites as well as spoiling the local environment,” he said.

“The local school is not a safe walk for children now and will be much worse once major development of the airfield commences.”

Mr Thorogood also pointed out that his company struggled to get planning permission for his site as planners believed, back in 1989, the Admiral’s show centre would be a ‘blight’ on the surrounding countryside.

The applicants say that the site is ideal for travellers and would help HDC meet the need for an additional 24 gypsy/traveller pitches between 2011 and 2021. They add that the site, despite being outside of any residential areas, has good transport links and that pollution from the A14/A1(M) was within the “relevant air quality standard”. Landscaping would reduce visual harm to the countryside, the application states.