Decision on controversial £130m motor museum at Enstone Airfield deferred

Councillors deferred a decision on whether to allow a £130m motor museum and resort at Enstone Airfield to be built yesterday (Monday, March 25).

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 10:40 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 10:41 am

A West Oxfordshire District Council spokesman said its development control committee agreed more information was needed from the applicant before a decision can be made.

US billionaire Peter Mullin’s plan to create a car lover’s paradise and holiday lodge complex at the airfield near Little Tew , called The Driving Centre, has caused a lot of controversy.

He commissioned Lord Norman Foster to design the development, which will be spread across 132 acres of land and include 28 luxury holiday lodges that will only be available to people who loan cars to the 60,000 sq/ft museum.

The revised plans for a classic car museum in the Cotswolds which have been submitted by Peter Mullin after residents, including Patrick Stewart, complained about a previous similar application. Photo: Foster + Partners NNL-190220-104343001

The initial application was withdrawn and resubmitted at 15 per cent smaller – neighbour Sir Patrick Stewart described the original application as elitist.

Around 180 objection letters were received by the council by many disgruntled residents and parish councils, but 220 were sent in support.

Those against the scheme cite the traffic consequences, the landscape impacts, the lack of onsite affordable housing, the housing development in the open countryside and the unsustainability of the location.

However traffic will be controlled by a ticket entry system and there is no objection from the highways department at Oxfordshire County Council, considerable landscape mitigation is being proposed, a ‘considerable sum’ has been made available for off-site affordable housing.

Supporters cite the economic benefits of providing a world class tourism facility and it will ‘restore a site blighted by its former use as a WWII airfield and subsequent activities’.

Visit England chief executive Sally Balcombe also wrote to the council to support the proposed museum, which Mr Mullin hopes will attract 200,000 visitors per year.

Part of the anger comes from Mr Mullin’s plan to pledge £11 million from an S106 agreement to restore Tew Park House, a manor home on the Johnston family’s 4,000 acre estate.

Locals are furious over this, claiming it would be wrong to spend S106 money on a private house.

Under the S106 agreement, Mr Mullin will also provide £1.7 million investment to the local Community, which will go towards housing, a new car park for Great Tew Primary School and environmental improvements at Enstone and Middle Barton.

The council’s planning officer recommended approving the proposal with conditions, describing it as ‘a tourism redevelopment of a brownfield site’.