Amidst all the furore over planning consent for 1,800 homes at Dunsfold Aerodrome, the call-in of the decision by the Secretary of State, the subsequent Public Inquiry and appeal by CPRE and Protect our Little Corner to the High Court, a planning application to build an 8,000 sq metre warehouse / museum in a green field on a small rural road just a hop, skip and a fence away from the Aerodrome itself has passed largely unnoticed by many.
But WW wonders what on earth Protect our Waverley has been about whilst this application – first registered with ‘Your Waverley’ in 2016, we understand – has been grinding through the planning process?
One would have thought they would have been all over this application – which is slap bang on their doorstep – like a bad rash. But, no, once again, contrary to their all-encompassing name – Protect our Waverley – Protect our Little Corner has proved – in case anyone was in any doubt – that it really is a SINGLE ISSUE CAMPAIGNER entirely focused on stopping development at the Aerodrome and nowhere – but nowhere! – else. Not even a hop, skip and a fence away from the Aerodrome’s bloody boundary!!!
The Wings Museum is currently based in Balcombe, Sussex, in a large hangar-style building aiming to provide an insight into life during World War II, with memorabilia from the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the Home Guard, D-Day, Bomber Command, etc.
Having outgrown its existing 12,000 sq ft home, the Trustees have acquired a green field off a rural lane in Dunsfold and, despite a minimal income of circa £20,000 per annum, has grand plans to build a 4,000 sq metre building in phase one of their development and grow it to 8,000 sq metres in due course.
With projected visitor numbers of some 20,000 per annum, it is hard to think of a site less well suited to a museum. If consented visitors will be obliged to approach the new museum via Dunsfold village or Alfold Road, wending their way down single track rural roads with few passing places and multiple blind bends. This is particularly concerning given that a location plan, submitted with the planning application, shows a large area given over to coach parking!!!
Our followers over there nearly choked on their cornflakes when contemplating a 52-seater coach navigating the narrow confines of The Crossways into Dunsfold Road!!! Woe betides the driver if they happen to meet a Cranleigh Freight HGV en route! That’s an encounter they say they would pay good money to see!
The Museum’s planning application has garnered a number of expressions of support primarily, it must be said, from existing Wings Museum enthusiasts, none of whom, it appears live in Waverley. Surprise! Surprise! Folkestone, Worthing, Kingswood and Horley are but a few of the outposts from which these supporters hail and, clearly, they don’t have a clue about the location of their pet project which one local objector refers to as ‘a rural location: reference to Policy RE1 Countryside beyond the Green Belt in the new 2018 LPP1′.
Reading their correspondence, a number of the Wings Museum enthusiasts seem to be under the mistaken impression that the new Museum will be situated on Dunsfold Aerodrome itself but that isn’t the case. As far as we can ascertain from the locals over there, it appears to be situated on land formerly owned by the Barnfield Estate.
Barnfield my ring a bell for regular WW readers as a property – which has been on and off the market like a yo-yo for a number of years now – owned by Rupert Howell, of Trinity Mirror Group (owners of the Sorry Advertiser).
One can’t help wondering why, oh why, oh why, the Wings Museum is going it alone on the fringes of Dunsfold Aerodrome when, surely, it would have made much more sense, not least logistically – as the majority of the proposal’s objectors point out – to approach the Dunsfold Developer with a view to merging with its existing on-site museum, thus benefitting from the improved access and transport links that an already consented new settlement at the Aerodrome will inevitably bring.
We at the Waverley Web aren’t planning experts but if Little Britton and his wife (serial objectors, we know, but, for once, they might actually have a point!) are to be believed, the size of the proposed museum structure – at a height of circa 15 metres – is larger than almost all the existing hangers and industrial units at Dunsfold Park today! Tellingly, Little Britton and his wife also point out the proposed new building could comfortably accommodate 270 double-decker buses!
It’s not often – if ever! – that the Waverley Web has reason to agree with Little Britton but in this instance, it concurs that the proposed location of the new Wings Museum is completely inappropriate in this particular spot. Why the hell would Waverley BC consent development on this scale on a greenfield site when it could so much more easily and sensibly be accommodated on an adjacent brownfield site? A brownfield site, moreover, that already has a small museum of its own which could so easily be expanded, over the course of the development, to accommodate both – especially given their themes are similar and therefore eminently compatible.
If Waverley Borough Council’s Planners and Planning Committees had an iota of common sense they would turn down this application and tell the Trustees to go talk to the Dunsfold Developer.
Several objectors point out that they fail to see how such a small charity as the Wings Museum – with annual receipts of circa £22,000 from approximately 5,000 visitors – can possibly afford the construction and development of a multi-million-pound project which would increase the size of its existing museum to six times that of its current site.
The recently opened Aerospace Museum in Bristol, whose running costs were £1.25 million in its first year, had over 150,000 visitors, generating receipts of some £1.91 million. These figures alone call into question the commercial viability of the Wings Museum’s proposal:
1. If it is deemed to be commercially viable then it follows that the visitor numbers will, necessarily, be huge and this greenfield site on a single-track country lane with few passing places and very poor public transport links simply could not cope with them.
2. If once consented and built, the Museum proves to be unviable, what will happen to the building? Will the museum’s trustees/benefactors seek a change of use to warehousing or other industrial uses?
One can’t help sympathising with one local objector who pleads with Waverley Planners to refuse the application ‘as it appears to be a cynical, speculative and disproportionate venture by whoever is bankrolling the Museum.’