Following a marathon meeting of West Oxfordshire District Council’s (WODC) Development Control Committee this week gave outline approval for the controversial Mullins Motor Museum.
It was standing room only during the almost four hour long session with both proponents and opponents of the Enstone Airfield based plan there to stake their case.
The plan was due to be discussed last June but was pulled by the American developer, billionaire businessman and philanthropist Peter Mullins, to address concerns raised in the 200 plus objections posted on the WODC website.
In detail the £150M plan, designed by Norman Foster and Partners Architects most famous for London’s Gherkin, would include a classic car museum and workshops, a track for concourse events and 28 luxury lodges.
Most objections focused on the added traffic the site would bring to nearby villages, including Great Tew, plus the lack of affordable housing included in the plan.
Seven members of the public, including the American billionaire, addressed the committee in five minute slots some for and some against the plans.
Great Tew resident John Mitchenson, chair of the Great Tew Parish meeting said: “Following consultations, formal and informal in December last year and the first three months of this year there is still a clear majority of Great Tew residents in favour of this application.”
He went on to detail the four factors that their support was based on including its suitability and economic benefits to the area. He concluded by stating the concerns about traffic were real and need to be addressed.
Also in support was Oxfordshire County Councillor Hilary Biles, she said: “This development will be a feather in the cap of this area. It is a wonderful opportunity and something we could be proud of.”
Wescott Barton Parish meeting representative, Hamish Lane, took a different approach to their opposition, saying: “There are two vital elements that maintain public confidence in the planning system; the role of the local development plan and democratic oversight of all major planning applications.”
When the discussion was passed to committee members it was the local plan, the agreed upon document that outlines the parameters within which the evolution and development of a village/town or area should adhere, that was often used as the regulation the museum plan contravened.
The Local Plan calls for developments with housing to have 50 per cent of those as affordable. None of the 28 lodges conform to this remit but the developer has set aside £1.25M to be used for affordable housing in nearby villages.
Traffic congestion had also been addressed by the resubmitted amended plans with a condition to encourage visitors to reach the site by foot or bicycle or to car share.
More grandiose suggestions were an electric hybrid shuttle bus, the use of which would result in a discounted ticket price or the construction of a park and ride east of the site to eliminate visitor traffic altogether.
As the hours ticked by the feeling from the council members seemed to be shifting to be in favour of the scheme with Cllr Postan declaring “We would be mad to turn it down.”
The outline plan was approved by 12 votes to 7.
Mr Mullins said: “Very pleased, its been a long, involved, thorough discussion. We couldn’t be more pleased.”
The museum will be home to a rotating display of 60 vehicles, 30 of which will be from Mr Mullins’ private collection. Visitors numbers to the site will be limited to 200,000 per year.
The next step is to submit a detailed plan to the council.