The District Development Control planning committee meeting was held on the 26 April 2016 to determine the planning application submitted by P.G.L. for Royal Gunpowder Mills site in our Town. The proposals are to develop a children’s holiday centre on the site at the expense of the Visitor Attraction that would be greatly reduced in size to accommodate development. After much debate Councilors on this committee voted to approve the proposed development.
However 4 members stood up to object and this meant that the decision could not be validated and was to be sent back to a full council meeting to determine if the proposals were considered acceptable to the whole of the district. It was to go before the full council with the recommendation for approval by this planning committee.
The full Epping Forest District Council met on 6th June 2016 and following a very long and heated debate the proposals were rejected by 16 votes for and 26 against by the elected members. This is despite a large contingent of Waltham Abbey Councillors voting in favour of the proposals. This is once again going against the wishes of a large proportion of the local community who see their history and heritage as something to be preserved and nurtured. This site is the only Gunpowder Mills left intact in this country and is an important reminder of our heritage. For over three centuries this site was the main employer for the Town and a substantial amount of residents had fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who worked at the site. Indeed a good deal the housing in Waltham Abbey was built specifically to house the workers from the site.
Subject to an appeal from P.G.L it appears that common sense has prevailed and that the operating company will now have an opportunity to formulate a new scheme possibly with P.G.L or another interested party to help fund the much needed renovations on the site. Hopefully, this time without losing access to the history and heritage of the site and the popular visitor attractions. These generate income to maintain facilities and keep the site open to the public. The permanent staff together with the not inconsiderable and much valued assistance of volunteers and friends who give up their time and energy to keep the site open. The knowlegeable educational staff provide an enjoyable fun day experience for the many schools who bring children to learn about the 300 year history of manufacturing gunpowder, cordite and rockets at the site. We sincerely hope that this aspect can be built upon and other activities added to the experience in order to create an income that can be sustainable in the future.