Plan for First World War education centre to be reviewed by councillors

Huntingdonshire District Council

Huntingdonshire District Council - Credit: Archant

A proposal to turn a Hemingford Abbots golf course into a First World War education hub - complete with a 500 bay car park and film set - will be put before councillors later this month.

The application, submitted by Lest We Forget, has been referred to Huntingdonshire District Council’s development management panel after Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey parish councils rejected the plans.

The National Centre for Great War hopes to feature a coach 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 about 44 acres 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 the report.

Despite this, district council planning officer Dallas Owen has recommended the application for approval.

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Ms Owen’s report 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.”

The report 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”.

In light of the concerns though, Ms Owen has recommended approval subject to several conditions, including a restriction on opening hours, a limit on noise levels and tree protection.

The full planning application will be reviewed by the development management panel on Monday.