What development is for Duxford?
The Imperial War Museum at Duxford that is. One of the biggest visitor attractions in the country, site of an RAF station since World War One, the place where they filmed the Battle of Britain, the place where they FOUGHT the Battle of Britain. When I say “they” I mean us, of course, and the Americans whose flight crew pictures appear in the old Duxford Officers Mess across the road, including the ones who never went home and who rest in the American cemetery at Madingley. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/10-incredible-photos-of-american-servicemen-at-duxford-in-the-second-world-war
So what’s going to happen, and what does it mean for residents nearby?
The Hotel - I went over to the conference centre on the edge of the airfield last Wednesday where the IWM was exhibiting its plans for a big (200 rooms) upmarket hotel on site, which they believe will open up the venue to two-day conferences and more overnight visitors.
Most of the residents of nearby villages who were there at the exhibition seemed relatively ok with the proposal, and liked the idea of some facilities such as a restaurant and bar that you could walk to from say, Heathfield.
We will need to see what this all means in terms of more traffic to and from that very narrow stretch of the A505, opposite the BP garage which is itself shortly to extend its hours. (That’s the garage where I had to go in front of the licencing committee to get a condition put in that the garage would clear its forecourt of litter, but anyway, I digress…)
The hotel planning application is likely to go to South Cambs in the autumn.
The IWM used to be funded entirely by the department of heritage, but over the years it has had to become more self-funding. Longtime readers of this blog will recall the Formula 1 test days that made use of the runway - mainly the Renault F1 team. It was pretty Top Gearish and a good earner for the museum but you could also hear the noise from Sawston High Street. Here’s a pic of me asking the Renault technician to turn the dial down a bit. That earner stopped when Formula One changed the test rules and the race teams didn’t need a long straight runway any more.
2. The possible Marshalls move The next bit of the jigsaw - and not likely to happen on the ground for five years or more, is Marshalls potential move to the Duxford IWM site. At one point people were saying that of the three sites Marshalls could go to, RAF Wyton was the most favoured. Now I’m hearing that because some of what RAF Wyton does is a bit secret squirrel, especially if you read the Guardian, this site may not be available. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/10/autonomous-drones-that-decide-who-they-kill-britain-funds-research.
I do know that Duxford IWM and Marshalls are currently in discussion - and while people initially were very concerned at the prospects of say Hercules freight planes zooming into Duxford for repairs, it may prove that what Marshalls have in mind is more high-tech than a grease monkey with a monkey wrench, and less obtrusive.
The third destination for Marshalls moving out from Cambridge was over to Cranfield and the avionics research there.
And this is where Gonville and Caius (my old College, bless it) serendipitously comes in.
3. The Avionics site. The college owns the land on the Duxford village side east of the M11 and is proposing an avionics science park, plus a country park to act as a buffer towards Duxford village, and about 800 houses around the village itself. (By the way, it appears the earlier proposition a year or so back of a large 24/7 motorway service station on the College’s land has quietly gone away, because it would pretty much make flying into the airfield unviable.)
The Caius bursar is currently talking to local village parish councils about this. The proposal has been put forward by the college as a possibility for inclusion into the South Cambs emerging Local Plan, which will start to firm up in late 2019. That is when we will know what parcels of land have been put forward by owners and developers across the district.
The houses. There will be a process of sifting down all the proposed sites put forward for development, and in late 2020 South Cambs district councillors will vote on the Local Plan. One point to bear in mind is that the new Local Plan will place a lot of emphasis on housing being near employment (and so a lot of houses at Duxford and an avionics park a sustainable whistle away would fit that criteria).
So there you have it - a proposal for a hotel (the IWM itself), a proposal for a aircraft research and refitting site (Marshalls), a proposal for an avionics hub (Gonville and Caius) with quite a lot of houses (Gonville and Caius) .
One issue is the ability of the A505 along that frontage from Duxford village, across the M11 to the IWM, to cope with some or all of this. There is some research starting this autumn looking at how the A505 can cope generally with the volumes of traffic it can expect. But importantly, this is all about planning, and whether this all hangs together to make sense for the South Cambs District Local Plan.
And finally. Have you heard the story about the American tourist who asks a college gardener how the lawns are so green and smooth. “Why bless you, there’s nothing to it” replies the man. “we just seed it and rake it and water it.”
“And then we roll it for three hundred years.”