Frustration at planning delays over run-down former air base

RAF Upwood

RAF Upwood - Credit: Archant

Huntingdonshire District Council has been accused of ‘dragging its feet’ by developers who have waited more than three years to start work on a disused RAF base, which has become a magnet for crime.

Proposals to build on RAF Upwood by Strawsons Property were first considered by the council in 2013, but after a number of setbacks, including drainage problems and traffic objections, the site is only now about to receive planning permission.

“It’s taken three years to get to this point, which is absolutely ridiculous,” Adrian Sail, strategic development manager at the company, said.

“I think it’s a number of factors, one being that there have been general cuts of staffing levels in the planning department, but they have been procrastinating and dragging their feet all the way through it.

“It’s just very frustrating and every time you turn on the news they talk about wanting to build houses and bring brownfield and Ministry of Defence sites forward. We’re ready to go.”

The company hopes to build 160 homes, and Mr Sail said he was also keen to see the site redeveloped to put an end to vandalism and arson there – something which spiked again recently.

On April 14, police were called to another report of trespassing at the site and found two cars parked near the entrance. Six people were then spotted on the roof of a 60ft-high derelict building.

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It was the latest in a recent surge in reports of trespass and vandalism at the site, with fire crews also called to tackle arson attacks.

Councillor Robin Howe, who represents Upwood and the Raveleys, said planning had taken so long because of previous objections including traffic, and that, while he recognises those problems, thinks the development is a good thing.

“I’ve spoken to the developers about this and they are absolutely convinced that when the site is developed the vandalism will cease,” he said.

“I think it needs to be developed and I’m delighted that this is going to go ahead.”

He added: “The buildings should have been preserved instead of being desecrated and we as a council should have secured the site and kept it in good condition, but unfortunately once the gate was left open for years the vandalism has occurred.”

A spokesman for the district council confirmed that last minute matters were being dealt with and both parties expect planning permission to be issued by the end of the month.

Andy Moffat, head of development, said: “The application was considered by the planning committee in December 2013 and again in April 2015 to resolve a drainage issue. The negotiations since then over the terms of the section 106 planning obligation and the planning conditions have, we accept, been unduly protracted for which we apologise.

“Our procedures are being reviewed to streamline dealing with section 106 agreements. Both documents have now been agreed and the planning permission will be issued shortly.”