UPDATE: uncertainty continues over Cotswold hypercar plant
By Simon Hacker | 21st November 2023
South Gloucestershire planners (SGC) have thrown their weight behind the bid to build a new car factory near Wotton-under-Edge – at a price.
And while local objections mount to the scheme, speculation continues that – as previously reported – the project which would create more than 50 skilled jobs could relocate to a 'Plan B' site in South Wales.
The $1m (£820,000) Spéirling hypercar, having already written its way into the record books for electric-car speed and performance, is the brainchild of Renishaw PLC founder Sir David McMurtry, who established the separate autobrand McMurtry Automotive (MA) back in 2016.
Through its agent, Morgan Elliot Planning, MA is currently seeking to construct a plant for research and development, together with a showroom and sales area for exclusive customers, who are anticipated to be predominantly American and Arab clients, on land close to Charfield and adjoining Renishaw's New Mills headquarters, near Wotton-under-Edge.
SGC's principal planning officer Simon Penketh told Stroud District Council: "The development is less than a mile from the boundary with South Gloucestershire. We recognise the benefits of such a development facility to the local and wider area."
But Mr Penketh went on to say that the bid's agent, Morgan Elliot, had already signed a "statement of common ground" which laid the way for the applicant to make a significant contribution to sustainable travel that would connect the business with Charfeld's new railway station (expected for completion, says SGC, by 2027), Kingswood village and Wotton-under-Edge.
He said: "Development will provide sustainable transport measures to link the site with Charfield, Kingswood and Wotton-under-Edge including contributions towards the completion of the Wotton - Charfield - Kingswood Greenway, enhancing local bus services and to the reopening of Charfield rail station."
He added: "SGC is disappointed to note that the planning application fails to provide details of these commitments, other than a safeguarded route for the future Greenway. Regardless of the current status of the draft Local Plan, the developer has made a signed commitment to contribute to these measures; measures which are necessary to achieve safe and sustainable access in accordance with current local and national planning policy."
Specifically, SGC has asked MA for "£600,000 towards the Charfield Rail Station scheme. This is based on a proportional share of local contributions from current pending planning applications for development within the catchment area of the station", while it also wants the applicant to ensure delivery of the segment of the planned Greenway cycle and footpath route for the length of the site "to enable a continuous Greenway route connecting to Charfield and Rail Station."
A contribution is also being sought towards developing and sustaining local bus connections, serving the site, for five years.
Whether MA agrees to SGC's request, planners in Stroud will also weigh up mounting objections to the proposed site.
One neighbour told planners: "The site of the proposed development is on a stretch of road on a blind bend where there have been multiple accidents and a fatality. This would be a crazy location for such a project."
And a neighbouring added: "A rural farming area with fields full of wild flowers and wildlife is fast becoming a urban sprawl with so much new housing in the area."
The owners of nearby historic Grade II* listed Bradley Court also said they strongly opposed the bid: "The majority of the proposed circa 50 jobs are unlikely to come from the local area nor move to the local area, thus increased commuter and industrial traffic will cause problems in an already over loaded network. It is reported that the applicants do have alternative brown field sites they could use for their factory so destroying a green field is not essential to their business."
Neighbouring North Nibley Parish Council has also expressed traffic concerns, stating: "The application proposes an independent vehicular access directly onto the B4058 close to a bend rather than access onto the existing roundabout via the existing Renishaw access road as required by the wording of Policy PS 47. The introduction of a separate access onto the B4058 would interrupt the free flow of traffic along the Charfield Road as traffic turns in to and out of the site and create a potential traffic hazard.
Punchline-Gloucester.com has approached McMurtry Automotive for comment. As reported in July, a local government source has voiced concern that difficulty and delay to the project may result in the applicant considering an alternative site, to which is it understood that the company has access as a resource option, in South Wales.
Stroud District Council, in its latest update on the application, has meanwhile indicated that a decision could be far from imminent: "This planning application has been submitted to the Council while the Draft Local Plan is progressing through an Examination in Public."
The council added: "It is therefore considered premature to the outcome of the examination."
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