Agenda item

(17/00728/FULL1) - St Georges RAF Chapel, Main Road, Biggin Hill, TN16 3EJ.




Description of application – Proposed Memorial Museum (Use Class D1) with ancillary café/ shop (Use Class A1/A3) with associated car parking, landscaping and alterations to the access points, demolition of modern annex building at St Georges Chapel and minor alterations to the listed building.


Oral representations in objection to and in support of the application were received


Oral representations from Ward Member, Councillor Julian Benington in support of the application were received at the meeting. He said that the proposed development was an attractive design, built for purpose that would enhance and frame the Memorial Chapel and the eaves had been designed to be level with the Memorial Chapel to create one building. It was Councillor Benington’s view that the Annexe built in 1990 was no longer required. 

The consecrated Memorial Garden would be retained and walled and some trees would also be retained and a new tree planted

The site occupied by the Air Training Corps would be unaffected but it was proposed that the gate to their site would be used for vehicle access for occasional special events.  A viable business plan was in place and would take the Chapel forward for the next hundred years and longer. He reported that Patron, Randolph Churchill, The Arch Deacon, Dr Paul Wright, The Head of Darwin Voluntary Trust and The Bishop of Rochester all supported the application. Councillor Melanie Stevens was present at the meeting and Councillor Benington said that she also supported the application.

Councillor Benington pointed out that on page 17 of the Chief Planner’s report, line 10 the words, ‘Aircraft Association’ should read, ‘Air Crew Association’.


The Chief Planner’s representativereported that in excess of forty objections, four letters of support and a petition had been received since the agenda had been published which had been summarised and circulated to Members. A further late objection with photographs attached had been received from Downe Residents’ Association and the London Borough of Bromley Residents’ Federation and circulated to Members.


Councillor Richard Scoates objected to the application and acknowledged that the proposed development currently fell within the Green

Belt, but on the Council’s adoption of the draft Local Plan, the site would be taken out of Green Belt. Permission had been granted for application 14/02136/FULL1 for the construction of a museum with integral cafeteria in July 2014 where very special circumstances had overcome Green Belt polices.  Councillor Scoates had parking concerns and he hoped that informal arrangements with the Air Training Corps could be formally agreed to accommodate future traffic demand.


Councillor Scoates said that the applicant had said that the Heritage Centre was required to ensure the longevity of the Memorial Chapel but, in his opinion, this was incorrect as it was the Memorial Chapel that would ensure the longevity of a potential Heritage Centre. When the Ministry of Defence relinquished the Memorial Chapel, they did so with an endowment that, if invested wisely, would cover current expenditure of £40-50,000 a year. Councillor Scoates did not take issue with this but felt it should not weigh in favour of the application.  The loss of several mature trees around the Chapel would further ruin its setting and add to a more suburban feel affecting the transition from the busy road to the Memorial Gardens that offered a space of tranquillity for personal reflection.


Councillor Scoates remembered reading a letter in the editorial section of The Biggin Hill News where someone had described the proposed design to resemble a crematorium and this vision had remained with Councillor Scoates, and in his opinion, this was not a fitting tribute to the late Airmen.


Councillor Scoates acknowledged that the application was contentious due to the impact on the Grade 2 Listed Building and referred to the number of residents in the public gallery and the widespread local passion for the RAF Chapel of Remembrance and the concept of a Heritage Centre. Many residents had been involved in the previous Trust and Supporters Club who had fundraised and promoted a Heritage Centre, and he would have preferred a representative from the old Supporters Club to have been appointed on the new Trust to bring a sense of cohesion to the project.  This had raised a level of suspicion and animosity towards the Council which Councillor Scoates hoped could be moved on from.

Councillor Scoates proposed that the application be refused but stressed that he was not against the concept of a Heritage Centre. 


Members having considered the report, objections and representations, RESOLVED that PERMISSION be GRANTED as recommended, subject to the conditions and informative set out in the report of the Chief Planner with the deletion of Condition 12, an amendment to Condition 18 and a further Informative to read:-

“18. Details of a scheme for the management of the car park, which shall include details of any formal arrangement for offsite (overspill) parking shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority before any part of the development is first occupied and the car park shall be operated in accordance with the approved scheme at all times unless previously agreed in writing by the Authority.

REASON: In order to comply with Policy T3 of the Unitary Development Plan and to avoid development without adequate parking or garage provision, which is likely to lead to parking inconvenience to other road users and would be detrimental to amenities and prejudicial to road safety.

INFORMATIVE 2: The Local Planning Authority strongly advises the Applicant that prior to making an application to the local planning authority to discharge condition 3 and 6 a consultation period is undertaken with local residents and consultees with regard to brickwork/materials and landscaping details for the proposed development, and consideration be given to the use of solar panels on the site.”


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