A planning fiasco involving the British Ironwork Centre has been recommended for approval, the Advertizer has learned.
Members of the North Shropshire Planning Committee will be charged with reaching a decision on the controversial proposal for the business off the A5 near Oswestry, which will receive the backing of planning officers.
The decision follows a meeting between Shropshire Council’s planning officers and either or both of the leaders of the committee, Councillor Paul Wynn and Councillor Vince Hunt, in which it was decided the proposal should go before members because of its “large -scale and controversial nature” and also Oswestry Rural Parish Council’s support, subject to a satisfactory access for the site.
Clive Knowles, owner of the BIC, said he always knew it would go before the committee and was pleased to learn of the recommendation – but added he hoped a decision was made soon.
Describing the feeling of getting approval as “someone taking the handcuffs off”, he said: “I feel this has been the longest journey I have ever been on.
“It’s a very debilitating journey. It began at the start of 2016 and now we’re approaching 2018. It really takes it out of you because you can’t address anything, such as the entrance improvements, until this is all completed.
“I’m hoping it will go before the committee as soon as possible because it just grinds you down. The process is incredibly long-winded.”
The proposal was submitted retrospectively in October 2016 – seven months after the Advertizer revealed the business did not have the relevant permissions.
This included a mixed use rural enterprise scheme comprising retail, a cafe, business storage, distribution and warehouse, outdoor activities and a drinking establishment, plus car parking.
Since then, additional permissions for the tourist attraction have been sought including an outdoor theatre, mini railway and crazy golf course.
The application has received mixed comments, but the majority have been in favour of it.
The business now boasts more than 40,000 ‘members’ plus over 20,000 kids’ club ‘members’, something Mr Knowles believes “says a lot about how people love what we do”.
A date for the committee meeting is still to be confirmed.
Philip Mullineux, Shropshire Council’s principal planner, said: “Both the officer recommendation, and date for committee consideration, have not yet been confirmed. Officers are working to resolve outstanding issues and bring the application forward for consideration by a future committee.”