Steam launch Consuta (left ) and model of heritage museum

Plans for a Thames Heritage Museum have gone to a planning inquiry after being repeatedly turned down by a local council.

The plan is for a museum on a lake just off the Thames at Beale Park near Pangbourne in Berkshire. A boathouse would house the restored historic launches Consuta, Donola and Cygnet. The museum will also tell the story of boat-building on the Thames.

But the scheme has been turned down by West Berkshire Council planners who say the site is unsuitable.The application has never been considered by a council planning committee.

More details of the plans can be found HERE

Planning Inspector Ken Smith chaired an inquiry at Newbury followed by a site visit with museum backers and council representatives.

The hearing was told over 50 letters had been received in support of the museum including one from Newbury MP Richard Benyon.

The Consuta Trust's Brian Smith explained the building would allow some boats to be afloat but there would also be hard-standing within the structure to allow static displays and workshops.

He said the Thames Heritage Boat Museum would tell the story of boatyards along the river, most of which had now disappeared. He said it would be an important heritage asset, would be a boost to tourism at the park which had been declining, and the building would be suitably screened by trees and landscaping.

Council planners said they were concerned about the number of trees that would be felled for the building and access. Planning official Emma Fuller said the character of the area would be changed. It was a new development not appropriate to the area.

Supporters said the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has raised no concerns.

Among the people speaking in support of the scheme was Martyn Heighton, Director of National Historic Ships UK. He explained the historical importance of the boats which he described as "very rare." The new museum would be of considerable importance "and not just for boat nerds."

Judgement in the appeal will be announced at a later date.

Consuta is a steam launch dating from 1898 and was built by the famous Thames boat-builder Sam Saunders. Trust website is HERE

The Victorian Steam Launch Cygnet was built by J.I.Thornycroft at Chiswick in 1870. Thames Boats Trust website is HERE

Donola is a saloon launch built 1893 at Teddington.More details HERE

Story dated April 22nd 2014



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