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Hawstead: World War One education camp wins planning battle

PUBLISHED: 08:53 07 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:38 07 March 2014

Promotional image for the Great War Experience in Hawstead.

Promotional image for the Great War Experience in Hawstead.

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A replica of a World War One army camp will be built in west Suffolk, despite concerns that it will damage house prices and is a disguised ‘theme park’.

The development at Brook Farm, Bells Lane, Hawstead, called The Great War Experience, will consist of a network of trenches, a visitor centre, cafe, huts containing displays as well as a coach and car parking area.

The project, put forward by military history company Khaki Devil, is designed to replicate army camps that sprung up around the county 100 years ago to help educate school pupils, students, historians and members of the public.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Development Control Committee yesterday approved the application subject to a number of conditions, including that the camp can only open between the hours of 9am until 5pm between May and September. It will be allowed to open on six winter days provided it seeks permission from the council.

The application was brought in front of the authority after objections were lodged by people living nearby who argued the development would bring a substantial increase in traffic and that the single track Bells Lane is not suitable for coaches.

Other objections branded the camp a ‘mini theme park’ and focussed on possible damage to the village green, disturbance caused by boise and light, impact on house prices. Janet Watson, from Hawstead, said she feared that “having a constant reminder of death and suffering on the doorstep is likely to have a negative effect on the mental health of the community.”

There was also a concern that ‘letters of support are not from local people’.

But of the 19 letters in support, six were from people living in the village. Resident, Henry Brewis wrote: “I think that a small well thought out use for this site is just what we need. A possibility of some part time employment for local people has to be a good thing.”

The plans were also backed by Hawstead Parish Council, who asked for coaches to be limited to one a day and for no re-enactments.

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