The PGL submitted planning application for a children’s adventure holiday centre at the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey was refused at the full meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Monday 6 June 2016.
Referred to Full Council
The decision followed an earlier meeting of Planning Development Management Committee at which the application was provisionally approved before being referred at the request of councillors to Full Council.
A separate Listed Building planning application for the conversion, alteration and extension of several buildings to provide classroom and guest accommodation was approved.
Important heritage in the district
The Royal Gunpowder Mills is one of the most important sites of special scientific interest and heritage in the district. Gunpowder production is thought to date back to the 16th Century.
The site contains many listed buildings as well as a natural habitat of exceptional quality. The Mills is run by an RGM operating company. The original intention was to open the Royal Gunpowder Mills up to the public with the aid of a trust fund set up by the Ministry of Defence and Lottery funding.
However, in recent years, the site has been unable to meet its running costs without drawing down capital funds, leading to concerns about the long term financial security of the Mills.
PGL has a number of children’s adventure holiday centres around the UK. The planning application proposed to convert part of the site for children’s holidays while seeking to conserve other environmental and heritage related parts of the site.
However, after a long and considered debate, councillors felt any benefits of the proposals were outweighed by the demolition of historic buildings, intensive use and harm to the heritage and environmental value of the site.
Proposed application drawings
Setting out their reasons for refusal, councillors said that there was insufficient reason for the demolition of the cordite factory which would severely impact the Conservation Area. They wanted to see more attention given to the visitor centre and objected to the overall increase in the footprint of new buildings proposed for the site.
Councillors recommended that any future application footprint of new build should be substantially reduced, the cordite factory should be retained and that consideration should be given to the operating company.
In the second application, councillors agreed plans for conversion, alteration and extension to a number of listed buildings for guest accommodation and classrooms.