Dambusters exhibition opposite Derwent Dam branded ‘absurd’ by locals

A plan for a Dambusters exhibition at Derwent Dam - where World War Two pilots famously practiced for German bombing raids - had been branded ‘absurd’.

Angry householders living nearby to the site have spoken out saying increased traffic at the attraction would put ‘lives at risk’.

They told Peak District planners how the ‘unsafe’ roadside parking on Derwent Lane which provides access to the visitor centre was putting ‘lives at risk’ - with drivers resorting to ‘using the pavement as a road’.

Severn Trent Water proposes to build a cafe, shop and exhibition space at Fairholmes Visitor Centre - opposite the famous dam.

Lancaster bomber flighing over Derwent Dam in the Peak District See Story Martin Slack Picture Chris Lawton 160513

Under the plans the current visitor centre would be converted to make room for a Changing Places disabled toilet.

Public speakers told the Peak District National Park Authority’s planning committee on Friday how nearly 99 per cent of Derwent parishioners had signed a petition opposing the plan.

Although councillors and residents supported a new disabled toilet they blasted the idea of a cafe for up to 60 people while the Dambusters exhibition would take up only 17 per cent of the new building’s floor space.

Residents supported the suggestion by one speaker that the exhibition was being ‘manipulated to elicit an emotional response to the cafe’.

In a written objection Derwent Parish Council wrote how Fairholmes would ‘become a destination centre instead of a short-stay stop-off - leading to even more dangerous traffic conditions.

Christine Woodhead, who lives nearby, told the meeting: “I am at a loss to understand why this application has been recommended for approval - there’s no proof a 60-seater cafe is needed.”

Derwent Valley resident Margaret Wheatley said: “I do not understand why we need a 60-seat cafe at a site which is a hub for outdoor activities - it will just attract another type of visitor.

“Must lives be placed at risk before the absurdity of this situation is acknowledged?”

Gareth Smith, a planning manager for Severn Trent Water, told the meeting in response to traffic concerns parking officers would be deployed along Derwent Lane and surrounding roads for ‘at least six months’.

However residents and councillors voiced concerns that a six-month commitment was not sufficient.

Members finally voted to defer the decision after Councillor Doug Birkinshaw suggested planning officers consider an extension of the exiting building with a smaller cafe.

Coun Birkinshaw said the income from the cafe could be used to finance private parking, litter and dog fouling enforcement.