Biggin Hill Memorial Museum set for November 2018 opening after £2million grant approval
PUBLISHED: 09:22 04 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:58 04 July 2017
The project was described as ‘exemplary’ by Heritage Lottery Fund
A museum honouring the importance of Biggin Hill Airport during the Second World War has been granted nearly £2million in funding as campaigners warn its design is “like a death camp”.
The Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust together with the council, has received a £1,998,200 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project, meaning construction could be underway by the autumn.
Expected to open in November 2018, the memorial museum will be built at the site of St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance, which was built in 1951.
The council hopes the development’s “sensitive” design will protect the chapel’s heritage going forward, but a 7,000-strong petition has called for the chapel’s protection amid fears the museum could see the vestry of the chapel knocked down.
A council spokesperson confirmed an annexe built on the left hand side of the chapel in the 1990s will be removed to restore the chapel to its original design, but no other demolition would take place.
Historic England have backed the annexe’s removal.
Campaigner David Evans said: “When it was approved there were more than 100 letters of objection, one person even compared the building to a death camp they had seen in Germany. We feel it’s threatening the character of the chapel and the gardens that surround it.
“The council has done a great job securing the funding, we all appreciate that, but they are spending the money on a poor design compared to one put forward in 2014 which provides more space and more flexibility.”
Council documents reveal the museum is expected to “wrap around the chapel in the vein of a garden wall or cloisters”, while ensuring the chapel “remains a permanent shrine of remembrance.”
At 100-years-old, RAF Biggin Hill is one of Britain’s oldest aerodromes and is cited as Sir Winston Churchill’s ‘strongest link’ for its part in the Battle of Britain, which saw Britain fend off aerial attacks from German forces in 1940.
A joint statement from council leader, Stephen Carr, and Biggin Hill Memorial Museum Trust chairman, Bruce Walker, said: “This is an important moment for both organisations. There has been a long standing wish to see the heritage of Biggin Hill protected and shared, this is a much anticipated museum made possible by the support of the HLF.”
More than £5million has been raised for the museum project, with the hope it will open for the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.