Developer says Hatfield Heath prisoner of war camp infrastructure is “beyond saving” as campaigner speaks of vision for the camp

PUBLISHED: 10:07 19 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:59 19 April 2018

The camp held up to 1,500 Italian, German and Austrian prisoners of war. Picture: JIM BRADLEY

The camp held up to 1,500 Italian, German and Austrian prisoners of war. Picture: JIM BRADLEY

Archant

A campaigner has spoken about his “dream” for buildings near Dunmow which housed prisoners of war during the Second World War to be turned into a museum, rather than possibly demolished to make way for new homes.

Residents have opposed a planning application to demolish the existing structures and build 26 houses on land west of Mill Lane, the site of the former POW camp, in Hatfield Heath.

The camp was built in 1941 by the Ministry of Defence and held up to 1,500 Italian, German and Austrian POWs according to Ivan Cooper, who has written a book on the camp.

Campaigner James Bradley said: “I believe you should keep history alive. You can’t rebuild history, once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s just remained untouched for so many years. It is the only one of its kind.

“We are not against housing, but we do not want any more unaffordable houses. If you look on the proposed plans, the houses look like mansions.

“I would love to turn the buildings into a museum, that would be my dream. There could be re-enactments, and school visits...it would bring so much more revenue into the town, but it would need funding.

“If the application goes through Mill Lane will just become a no-go zone. It is hard enough to anything down there at the moment. It is going to cause horrific traffic during rush hour.”

Mr Cooper, secretary for the local history society, said the prisoners worked on local farms and were released after 1946.

Some settled locally, including a man who lived in Sheering, close to Hatfield Heath, until he died three years ago.

He added that the camp had become ‘rundown’ over the years.

Bill Bampton, director of Pelham Structures, the company which submitted the application, said: “The former POW camp was constructed as temporary buildings in 1941-42, part wooden huts and part prefabricated concrete framed huts. The camp was decommissioned in 1955. The timber frames have mostly rotted away and the concrete frames are structurally unsound due to corrosion of the reinforcing bars, they are beyond saving.

“I have invited the local historical group to record the current condition and agreed to erect a permanent display to inform future generations of the site’s history.”

An Uttlesford District Council spokesman said, “At the recent cabinet meeting the decision was taken to reject the nomination to list POW Camp 116 as an asset of community value as it did not meet the appropriate criteria. However, it was resolved that Uttlesford District Council would work with the local community to put POW Camp 116 on the Local Heritage List.

“Planning permission would be required for the demolition of the existing buildings if undertaken separately from any application for redevelopment.”

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