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FEATURE: ‘Yes’ to vast mast site which will bring thousands of homes and attract new businesses to historical area

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Planning permission has been granted for Rugby’s 6,200-home mast site expansion in one of the most important decisions affecting Rugby for years.

Work will start on the 20-year building project later this year, with the first homes being occupied in 2015. It was approved by Rugby Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday last week, following decades of debate over the use of the historic land.

Eventually the mast site will have a population of around 15,000, increasing Rugby town’s population by 18 per cent. Rugby Radio Station Limited Partnership, which includes BT and Aviva Investors, will oversee a regeneration of the site that includes homes, jobs and commercial space, schools, green space and an entire infrastructure.

Cllr Craig Humphrey, leader of Rugby Borough Council, said after the meeting: “Bringing this site into use is a major step forward in delivering sustainable growth. With more and more companies and developers recognising the benefits of doing business with us, it is clear that Rugby really is open for business.

“When these new homes and the associated infrastructure and employment sites are complete the borough will become an even more attractive place to live, work and visit, with all the additional benefits that will bring.”

The planning document specifies that the surrounding road infrastructure is to be built while the homes are built, amid residents’ fears over the existing road network being over-capacity.

Mark Pawsey MP said: “It’s taken many years to bring these plans forward and it’s clear that a lot of thought and planning has gone into the mast site development. It also means the wishes of the local residents have also been taken into account in so far that the road infrastructure will be built before the scheme is completed.

“It’s also good news for our town centre, as more residents mean a wider customer base to support traders, and St Cross hospital because its vital services will be used by even more people.”

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LATEST CHAPTER IN COLOURFUL HISTORY

The building work set to start on Rugby’s former mast site later this year will be the latest chapter in the site’s colourful history.

When the giant masts that occupied the site were completed in 1926 they were thought to be the tallest structures in the world. For decades of Rugbeians the familiar sight of the masts marked where their home was – especially at the end of long motorway journeys. The structures, which stood at 250 metres – 20 metres taller then Canary Wharf – could be seen from over 20 miles away on a clear night.

Soon after it was built, the station grew into one of the largest aeronautical and maritime operations in Europe, offering ship-to-shore communications by high frequency. The masts ran the first commercial transatlantic telephone service in 1927. They also generated signals for the atomic clock and helped the Royal Navy and the French Resistance during the Second World War. They also signalled Margaret Thatcher’s historic order to sink the Argentinian warship General Belgrano during the Falklands War.

Most of the masts were felled in 2004 as satellites became a more suitable means of communications. The final four masts were pulled down on Thursday August 2, 2007.

The development which will be built on the site will contain 6,200 homes and is expected to house around 14,600 people. The site will contain a secondary school, three primary schools and 31 hectares (around 40 football pitches) of employment land and is expected to take around 20 years to build.

The plans, submitted by Rugby Radio Station Limited Partnership RRSLP (the joint venture including BT and Aviva Investors), contain many amendments to the original. In the revised plans, the main road linking the development to Rugby town centre connects to Clifton Road near Butler’s Leap, but there are also links directly onto the A5 and parts of Hillmorton.

Graeme Paton of BT Property said: “This resolution to grant planning permission is the culmination of more than 15 years of hard work and looking for the best solution for re-using the radio station site. It’s an excellent result for everyone who has been involved in contributing to and influencing the proposals.”

Neil McLeod, of Aviva Investors, added: “Rugby is growing and the radio station site will play an integral part in a sustainable and successful future for the town. Now that a resolution to grant planning permission is in place, we can get on with preparing to start work on site which means putting the infrastructure in place and drilling down to an even greater level of design detail.”

He added: “We have an experienced partner in Urban and Civic and we hope to see the first new homes on the site coming through from 2015 which is great news for Rugby’s housing supply. It means new homes coming forward together with new infrastructure and services, all as part of a cohesive and integrated development.”

 

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