Great War ‘hub’ proposal to go back before council’s planning panel

Huntingdonshire District Council will consider the plans.

Huntingdonshire District Council will consider the plans. - Credit: Archant

A proposal to turn a Hemingford Abbots golf course into a First World War education hub is to be considered for a second time by Huntingdonshire District Council’s development panel.

The application, submitted by Lest We Forget, will go before the panel next Monday, just months after it was deferred by councillors owing to concerns over noise, travel and transport.

The proposal is being decided by the panel because of objections raised by Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey parish councils, which are concerned by the possible impact of the hub on the villages.

The National Centre for Great War hopes to feature a 500-bay car park, museum buildings, fishing lake, internal watercourse and track for a narrow gauge railway, including replica trenches for use as a film set.

In a recent report, Hemingford Grey Parish Council recommended refusal for the site “as the development would affect the peace and tranquillity of the Hemingfords, would create unacceptable high volumes of traffic – especially on event days - and overwhelm the narrow roads when A14 is congested”.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) also has fears about the site, which covers 18 hectares and lies to the south of the A14 in Cambridge Road.

“Whilst we would not normally object to outdoor recreation in the countryside, in this case the nature and type of recreation and the scale of the coach and car parking suggests that there would be adverse harm,” it said in a report.

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Despite local concern, district council planning officer Dallas Owen has again recommended the application for approval.

Since the application was deferred, back in May, Ms Owen says fears over traffic congestion and noise have been addressed, and has recommended conditions be imposed by councillors to ensure fears are further allayed.

In response to CPRE, Ms Owen noted: “Whilst it is acknowledged that the proposals will result in a change in appearance of the application site, with appropriate landscaping to mitigate the proposals, in addition to the unique tourist/educational facility within Huntingdonshire, along with the potential benefits to the economy, these outweigh the harm to the countryside.”

It continued: “However, the site has a clear defensible boundary which will ensure that there will be no development sprawl into the open countryside beyond the confines of the site, and it is the intention to retain the existing boundary treatment.

“Additionally, due to the existing boundary treatment, the views into the site are limited from the A14.”

Godmanchester Parish Council has also recommended approval, saying the centre will “bring many benefits to the area in terms of employment and revenue.”