Battle over Bosworth
MIRA wants to build new track on small part of the battlefield site
COUNCILLORS DEFERRED A DECISION ON DRIVERLESS TEST TRACK PROPOSALS
IT proved to be a skirmish rather than a decisive clash when councillors met to discuss whether to allow a £26 million driverless vehicle testing track to be built on part of Bosworth Battlefield.
The application by Horiba Mira to construct the 83-acre complex by its existing technology park off the A5 at Higham on the Hill went before Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council’s planning committee last week.
Politicians were asked to weigh up whether allowing the Government- backed project to proceed would bring enough public benefits to outweigh the loss of a small portion of the battlefield where Richard III lost his life and crown to Henry Tudor in 1485.
After about an hour-and-a-half of discussion, councillors voted not to make a decision but defer the matter to a later meeting in the hope Horiba Mira can reconfigure its scheme in a way that preserves the battlefield in its entirety.
One of the main points of contention from objectors was this plan had somehow been kept secret during a public consultation period.
Although the proposals to expand the technology park have been widely publicised for some time, many people only became aware of the fact the project would intrude into the registered battlefield a week before the planning meeting, after it was revealed by newspapers.
Many history groups were upset they were not consulted by the council.
The council did seek the views of all statutory consultees. These include Highways England, National Grid and the flood authorities.
Heritage watchdog Historic England was also consulted.
It did not object but warned some harm would be caused to the battlefield and said the council would have to justify the public benefits of the scheme would outweigh that harm before granting permission.
Planning consultant Graham Warrener represented Horiba Mira at the council meeting.
He told councillors the aim was to create a world-leading facility to further driverless car technology.
He said the Government wanted the UK to be the go to place for the technology and that ambition was underpinned by Trusted Intelligent Connected Autonomous Vehicle – TIC-IT.
He said the scheme would create 2,000 direct and indirect jobs and be a significant wealth creator for the area.
Council planning team leader Helen Knott said the scheme would have local, regional and national benefits.
Mr Warrener also said the project had already improved the understanding of the battlefield as University of Leicester archeologists had carried out 10 studies of part of the plan’s preparation.
He said there would be further computer modelling of the wider area if the scheme was approved.
Leicestershire County Council has objected to plans to create a temporary road access to get aggregates on to the site from Fenn Lane.
Horiba Mira said it would be used for five months of a yearlong construction period.
County Hall said the rural lane will not be able to safely cope with 76 lorries coming and going every day. The county council wants lorries to use the main Mira entrance of the A5.
Mr Warrener said that entrance and the road through the existing facility could not take such large vehicles.
Borough council planner agree with Horiba Mira and said the road would be temporary.
Horiba has said it would pay for the restoration of the lane should any damage be caused to it.
One neighbour who lives 45 metres from the boundary of the site has complained about potential noise from vehicles travelling at up to 155mph – particularly the gunning of engines and the screeching of tyres and brakes.
Environmental health officers from the borough council are happy there would not be noise pollution issues.
DISPUTED AREA: The site, outlined in red, with Fenn Lanes running right to left at the top of the image