Plans for permanent beacon tribute to Queen in Derbyshire rejected

today15 September 2022 1

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Plans to permanently install a Platinum Jubilee beacon in honour of the late Queen Elizabeth II in grassland a mile outside a Derbyshire town have been rejected. The plan, submitted by Ashbourne Town Council, was to install the 5.6 metre-tall beacon, at a cost of £10,000, at the junction of Windmill Lane and Ashbourne Green.

It was bought by the town council as part of the Jubilee celebrations but is now in need of a permanent home. Concerns were raised over the chosen potential site, which is a mile north of Ashbourne town centre, and the lack of any parking facilities for events which may run alongside any occasion at which the beacon could be lit.

Cllr Caroline Cooper, from the town council, claimed that the majority of people who had commented on the scheme had given their support. However, only three letters were submitted by residents to the district council and all three voiced objections, with none in support.

Read more: Get the latest politics stories from Derbyshire Live

Cllr Cooper said all the objections, including one from Ashbourne councillor Stuart Lees, contained “inaccuracies”. She said a risk assessment would be carried out before each use of the beacon and that the road past the proposed site had a 50mph speed limit, not a 60mph speed limit.

Cllr Cooper said one resident had voiced concerns about the smoke from the beacon causing potential road safety issues, citing an example from a fire near the M5 past Bristol. However, Cllr Cooper said this was a bonfire and that there “had not been an issue with any other ceremonial beacon”.

The proposed spot of the Platinum Jubilee beacon, on grassland next to a road junction
The proposed spot of the Platinum Jubilee beacon, on grassland next to a road junction

She said the structure has been paid for entirely through the council precept – meaning council tax funds from residents. Brell Ewart, a Deputy Lieutenant of Derbyshire who helped organise much of the county’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, said he was against the scheme due to the chosen location.

He said: “It is a magnificent structure and it is going to last 200 years in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee and I daresay now as a memorial for the now late Queen. You could stand five people in the basket, the fire in it is going to be a jolly good bonfire size.

“It would be lit, I would suggest, for ceremonial events such as Guy Fawkes Night and particularly coronations and any annual or national spectacles. The Platinum Jubilee website suggests that beacons can be sited in country parks, overlooking a lake, in town centres or as a tourist attraction.

“My objections to the current proposal are twofold. First of all, fire risk. You’ve only got to look at the grass surrounding – it is a metre high. In the recent summer we have had restrictions on barbecues and yet we can allow this beacon to be put in a grass field with a risk assessment for simply a fire extinguisher to be put at the side of it, which seems perverse to me.

“I speak for the people of Ashbourne in saying that we want a beacon and it can be lit at any time of the year without restrictions.” Adam Maxwell, a district council planning officer, said that officials were recommending that the plan should be approved and said the scheme “would not generate safety or parking issues sufficient enough to reject the application”.

Cllr Peter Slack queried whether there could be a danger of debris from the beacon blowing into traffic, with Mr Maxwell saying that this was not likely. Cllr Stuart Lees, an Ashbourne councillor and a former firefighter, said that while the beacon was a “wonderful idea”, the chosen proposed location was not right.

He told the meeting: “I would certainly say that this is a fire risk because this area of grassland is only mowed or has only been mowed either once or twice at the most every year. It is high grassland and it (fire) is going to spread straight across and destroy all the wildlife and there is no saying that when it is going to be lit, it, certainly in that location, will be lit by somebody, not possibly the town council but by somebody…other.”

Cllr Richard FitzHerbet also said that while the beacon itself was “fantastic” he was unsure about the location. Sir FitzHerbert, who owns and lives at Tissington Hall, said: “We have got a couple of places where we could put it but we are too far out of town.

“People would have to physically drive there (to the proposed Ashbourne site), you couldn’t walk from town.” Cllr Garry Purdy, leader of the council, said: “It is a fantastic idea and it should come to fruition but I do feel like it is in the wrong place, I’d like to see it in a position where people can walk, otherwise you are going to be calling lots of cars up to that vicinity and creating a bit of traffic hazard.”

Derbyshire County Council’s highways department had expressed concern about the distance between the proposed beacon location and the roadside, so the proposed spot had been moved back further away from the carriageway. District council officers had advised: “The beacon is likely to generate public interest visits, particularly when it is lit. There is no off-street parking available for visitors and limited on-street parking along Windmill Lane which is narrow.

“Therefore there is potential for off-street parking to affect the amenity of the area. However, the site is not so remote that all visitors would arrive by car and visits would only be likely during periods when the beacon is lit. Many visitors would be likely to remain at the site for a limited period of time. Therefore any additional on-street parking would not harm highway safety or the amenity of the area.”

Officers also detail: “The development would introduce a vertical structure adjacent to highways. This could potentially introduce a risk of collision for highway users. Smoke from the beacon would also have the potential to reduce visibility for highway users, particularly during foggy conditions.”

However, they say these risks are not sufficient enough to justify refusing the plans. The town council chose a firm to install the beacon, with the only company that quoted a price landing the job, estimating between £4,000 and £5,000.

The beacon itself cost just over £3,500 to purchase, and with associated costs and VAT added on, the total cost of the scheme is believed to set the town council back in excess of £10,000.

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