The Royal Artillery Museum (RAM) and its collection was originally located and displayed in Woolwich, London, but it failed to attract sufficient visitors for the museum to be financially self-sustaining. The museum closed in 2016, and the collection was placed in storage while RAM developed proposals for a museum at an alternative location, ideally close to the home of the Regiment at Larkhill.
The Army and MOD had identified various sites, one near Larkhill on the edges of Larkhill Racecourse, in Figheldean’s parish, known as Knighton Down East. This site was rejected for numerous reasons. This led the MOD and RAM to assess other sites.
The Army and MOD agreed that a suitable site for the new museum could be at Avon Camp West, between Figheldean and Netheravon on the A345. The parcel of land is owned by the Ministry of Defence who have agreed to lease the land for a peppercorn rent to RAM subject to a successful planning application, which includes the requirement to ensure that there is overwhelming local community support. Many have suggested that this development is a “done deal” and this is not the case. Please refer to the letter by Major General David Southall at Figheldean.org. The parish council will therefore be able to formally support or object to plans based on villagers views.
The first phase of development is apparently funded, by funds from Royal Artillery charities and RAM’s own reserves, together with a grant of £1.35m from the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP).
Avon Camp West:
Avon Camp West, also known as Netheravon Down, sits opposite Haresfield Crescent, on the other side of the A345 from Figheldean, with the entrance planned opposite the Mill Lane/Church Lane end of Figheldean village. The approx. 100 acre site includes the Tank Washing Station and the training camp complex, but not the Landmarc building. RAM have confirmed that they require a parcel of land of this size as they are creating a large visitor attraction.
Current plans include:
- a two-storey museum building located on the tank wash station site to maximise views of the plain
- large museum galleries to display the collection
- space for education rooms
- archive research room
- lecture theatre
- meeting rooms
- A large display and events arena for demonstrations and activities such as armoured vehicle rides
- a children’s play area
- the site will also accommodate visitor parking for cars and coaches (with the car park visible to Figheldean residents as it will be located on the south side of the existing tree line opposite Mill Lane).
- There are plans for the site to be used for military and other events in the evenings.
There are future plans for further expansion to include an archives room, more storage and larger displays including a railway gun.
RAM plan to hold a number of additional events per year. Please see expected visitor number for events below.
Visitor numbers are expected (Outline Business Case Feb 2020):
There will be a range of full-time and part-time opportunities, with the new attraction aiming to employ around 23 FTE in year 1 and 40 FTE staff within the first seven years.
Please note that the proposed site is not in Figheldean Parish but in Netheravon’s even though it is closer to Figheldean.
RAM Community Liaison Group Meeting:
RAM Community Liaison Group (CLG) was created on the request of Army HQ and Wilts Council. It was set up “to facilitate communication, share information and engage in constructive discussions about the design, construction and operational aspects of the RA Museum (RAM), without prejudice to people’s positions, and without assuming that the planning application decision is a foregone conclusion. Membership does not imply support for the Project.“
Membership includes: Wiltshire Councillors, Parish Councils, Wiltshire Council Head Economic Development and Planning, RAM and other stakeholders.
One meeting has been held. Please refer to Parish Council Meeting minutes for more information regarding this meeting, including a Question and Answer document regarding the planned development.
The Planning application is expected to be submitted to Wiltshire Council sometime in April. Given the size and potential impacts of this project the planning application will go to the Strategic Planning Committee rather than being allocated to a planning officer. It is also believed that the usual 21 day window for objections, comments and support will be extended. Should you wish to have more information please visit Wiltshire Council Website – Planning.
The planning application documents should give us the most comprehensive overview of the proposed development and its assumptions.
Outline Business Case:
An Outline Business Case (OBC) prepared by RAM for the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) has been published and the link can be found below in support of the proposed grant. This document is similar to a business plan and give concrete details and assumptions surrounding the project, however more details will be available with the planning application.
2 petitions exist, both online at Change.org, one in support of the RAM at Netheravon Down and one in support of a Royal Artillery Museum but categorically against the proposed location at Avon Camp West. The one against the location has been predominantly signed by residents along the A345 and the parish council will be in receipt of these result. It is believed that the petition in support has been signed by many Royal Artillery personnel who do not live close to the proposed location. The parish council are unaware as to whether they will receive the results. As at end March 2020 both petitions had approximately 1200 signatures (either online or physically signed).
Impacts, concerns, benefits:
As listed in previous parish council minutes, there are a number of areas of concern for the villagers and possible impacts to the village, as well as some possible benefits. Many of these can be raised during the planning process.
Concerns and Impacts mentioned so far:
- The proposed location at Avon Camp West
- The size of the site – visitor attraction rather than museum
- Museum being highly visible
- Access to the site sitting opposite Mill Lane so very close to Figheldean
- Concerns around the A345: increased traffic, noise, pollution, congestion.
- Access to and from the museum
- Rat runs emerging through Ablington and Figheldean
- Public transport is already poor
- Expected visitor numbers including events seem high
- Location of the Car Park – visible to parts of Figheldean
- Noise and light from the museum
- Disruption during construction phases
- Ecological and Environmental impacts
- Potential unknown future plans/ambitions for RAM and site
- Lease terms are unknown
- Disruption during building phase
- Employment – 23 FTE in year 1.
- Opportunities during build phase
- Possible benefits to local businesses
- Military education programmes
- Café and Play park
- Events venue
The Parish Council strategy has been consistent for many months:
- Await publication of new Outline Business Case (OBC) – now published
- We will await the results of the petition.
- The OBC will be distributed to parishioners via the website and Facebook and villagers should ask communicate any questions and concerns to the parish council.
- The RAM Community Liaison Group Questions & Answers document to be distributed to parishioners via the website and Facebook and villagers should ask communicate any questions and concerns to the parish council.
- We will hold a dedicated RAM public meeting for the parish
- We will advise what your options are as residents of the parish and how you can voice your opinions to Wiltshire Council.
- We can then establish the view of villagers.
- The Parish Council will only officially support or object to the plans for Avon Camp West following consultation with parishioners.
The Parish Council will endeavour to maintain contact with the village via the Website (www.figheldean.org) Notice Boards, Facebook, email and flyers. The website has previous parish council meeting minutes and various documents relating to the RAM proposed development.
Should any of villagers wish to be added to the Parish email distribution list, please send us your names, postal addresses and email addresses by sending an email to the Parish Clerk at email@example.com
The Parish Council suggests it may be prudent to wait for the planning application to be submitted before expressing a view on the proposals BUT should they wish to engage, villagers have an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns, as previously outlined by writing to:
Wiltshire Council CEO, Alistair Cunningham, responsible for the planning process of this development at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr A Cunningham OBE
Chief Executive Officer
Wiltshire County Council
Major-General David Southall (Army HQ), who is responsible for the parcel of land being proposed to RAM at David.Southall203@mod.gov.uk
Our MP, Danny Kruger, at email@example.com
Wiltshire Council, https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/planning-new
Outline Business Case: Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership
Annex A: Location Map
For more annexes please visit www.swlep.co.uk and search Royal Artillery Museum.
Royal Artillery Museum, www.royalartillerymuseum.com
MP Danny Kruger, www.dannykruger.org.uk
We remain at your disposal and thank you for your support. Should you have any questions please contact the Parish Clerk.
Further updates will be published in “Royal Artillery Museum – Updates” area of this website.
Figheldean Parish Council