The proposed site is on MOD land known as Avon Camp West which is on the west of the A345, just south of Netheravon.
A key requirement was that the museum should be on MOD land near the Regiment’s home at Larkhill and its key training area for over 100 years. The Army and DIO originally selected a site at Knighton Down East but in 2017 they asked the Regiment to move its focus to Avon Camp West for operational training reasons.
It is a semi-brown field site with good access from a main road, utilities/services on site and it is outside the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (and its proposed extension). It also provides the space required for the museum, does not restrict training (as it is outside the range danger area) and enjoys spectacular views over the Plain.
Building the museum within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site or a Site of Special Scientific Interest would be both extremely difficult and inappropriate. Rollestone Camp is still used for training, and the cost of re-providing the existing infrastructure elsewhere would be prohibitively expensive. There are no suitable sites adjacent to the RA Barracks, Larkhill, not least because of the recently developed barracks and Army housing.
The Army has written to confirm that the land can be allocated for the museum. We are currently discussing the details with DIO and expect to sign a lease as soon as planning permission is secured.
Following authorisation by the Army/DIO, the Royal Artillery Museum charity has commissioned archaeological and ecological surveys on parts of the site in line with requirements for the planning application.
While much of this work is non-intrusive, the archaeological assessments require approximately 30 trenches to be dug on the site. This work will be undertaken by acknowledged leaders in the field, Wessex Archaeology, and follows a desk-based assessment and geophysical survey as well as consultation with the Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service. The archaeological work started on Monday 3rd February and is expected to take between two and three weeks.
Due to earlier training use of the site there is a risk from unexploded munitions and so specialist Unexploded Ordnance contractors will be on site throughout the archaeological work. The areas of investigation are on MOD land (over which there are no Public Rights of Way) and will be clearly marked. For their own safety members of the public are advised to keep away from the investigation areas at all times.
The main building will provide around 8,000m2 of floor space. Most of this will be used for the museum galleries, but there will also be space for education rooms, meeting rooms and a lecture theatre. A cafe, shop and children’s play park will be accessible without buying a museum ticket. The museum site will also incorporate a display arena, WW1 trench system and conservation workshop.
Our plans for future development are mostly focussed on providing enhanced exhibitions and interpretation inside the main building. We would also like to refurbish the historic but currently dilapidated Cavalry Riding School building to provide improved storage space for our collection. Ideas for further new build development are limited to an archive store and additional museum gallery positioned close to the initial building, and these would be subject to the usual planning application process.
No, this is a military museum with associated activities and displays, such as the WW1 trench system, conservation workshop and a small contemporary military base (of the type already in existence on the site), which will help to explain and highlight its key themes and messages.
Yes, we will be recruiting new volunteers for a wide range of different roles, including welcoming visitors, guiding, storytelling, archive research, assisting education groups, gardening, maintaining historic vehicles and conserving artefacts (ranging from medals to missiles). We believe the opportunity for people to get involved is one of the most exciting benefits that the new museum will bring to Wiltshire.
Our current small team of volunteers has already made great progress with conservation projects and archive research, and have greatly enjoyed meeting new people, gaining fresh skills and helping us to care for a unique part of our Nation's heritage.
The initial build and fit out will be funded primarily by the Regiment, helped by a grant of £1.35m from the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
We plan to open the museum some time after spring 2022.
The planned opening hours are 10 am to 5 pm, throughout the year.
The admission price has not yet been set but research indicates that an adult ticket price of around £12 would be considered good value for money.
Yes, all serving Royal Artillery personnel will get free entry to the museum, and so will all Gunner veterans.
Our target is to achieve 91,000 paying visitors in the first year, growing to 153,000 (around 180,000 with the addition of free visits, education groups and special activities).
If we achieve visitor numbers of over 100,000 we will be in the top five or six attractions in the County.
Firepower was sited in an unattractive locality and stood in the middle of a building site for almost all of its 15 years existence, and it had to compete with two major military museums with free entry in London. There was little opportunity to bring visits to life with re-enactments, equipment deployments, armoured vehicle rides and blank firing, or immersive experiences such as the planned WW1 trench. It also occupied very old buildings which proved very expensive to heat and maintain, and veteran volunteers were not available in significant numbers. Finally, for much of its lifespan many significant artefacts (including the Railway Gun and much of the Cold War and contemporary collection) were not available as part of the visitor journey.
Our expert traffic consultants have advised that the museum traffic, even based on our highest visitor number target, will not impact significantly on local roads, with only a very small percentage increase over and above the current use of the A345. A full Transport Statement will be included with our planning application.
No, the museum will open at 10am (after the morning rush hour), and will close at 5pm (before the evening rush hour).
The numbers attending will be lower than peak attendances at the point to point and at the RA Tercentenary a few years ago. This part of the Plain is well used to such major events and they do not cause undue traffic congestion. We will work with Wiltshire Council to ensure that appropriate plans are in place to minimise any disruption to road users.
As a result of feedback from local communities we have moved the entrance to the south east corner of the site. This will improve visibility and safety, and reduces the length of new access road required within the field adjacent to the A345.
Yes, there is a bus stop close to the site entrance, with an hourly bus service for six days of the week; while there is currently a reduced service on Sundays, we hope that the museum opening would create a focus for securing improvements to this. We are proposing to make improvements to visibility and safety for users of the bus stop.
Minimising the impact on the local landscape is part of our design brief. The functional building style is not dissimilar to many existing military and farm buildings on the Plain, and is on a site currently occupied by an unattractive disused vehicle washdown.
Additionally, as a result of feedback from local residents and other stakeholders, we have made a number of changes to reduce the visual impact of the building:
We will retain, and pro-actively manage, the existing woodland belt on the site. A small number of trees may be removed to create a path from the car park to the museum building, but significantly more will be planted to compensate for these.
Our plans for security lighting will be as non-intrusive as possible. Various parts of the site have been lit by security lighting in recent years, currently including the buildings used by Landmarc.
We are planning to hold two or three major events each year, and numbers will be kept relatively low, with daily attendances starting at around 1,000 and growing to 3,500.
A typical event is likely to include arena demonstrations, living history groups, equipment displays and re-enactments.
There will be some noise from activities including driving historic vehicles and blank firing displays. This is not expected to be more intrusive than noise from nearby military training, which includes live artillery and machine gun firing and helicopters landing. Any public address system used on event days will be designed to provide localised sound to spectators and be directed out towards the range.
There is always a risk of uncovering archaeological remains on the Plain. We have undertaken desk-based research, geophysical surveys and trial trenching of the site to minimise the likelihood of significant remains being found during the build programme.
We are currently undertaking ecological surveys to determine what flora and fauna use the area, and this information will be included with our planning application. We will be proposing measures to minimise the impact on wildlife, including the provision of banking for burrowing animals, new planting, and the creation of new grassland.
Yes, the intention is to use solar panels to provide electricity for the main museum building, which will be heated with air source heat pumps instead of gas.
If visitor numbers are on target the museum will directly employ around 40 full-time equivalent staff by Year 7, and we hope many of these jobs will appeal to local people. We anticipate an additional boost to local jobs as a result of the museum’s positive impact on the local tourism economy, and through the use of local suppliers and businesses to support the construction and operation of the museum.
In response to the feedback we have received from local people, we have changed the position of our proposed site fencing. While there are no public rights of way over this area, we will ensure that walking routes remain available on a non-permissive basis (as is currently the case).
We will continue to hold local consultation events, and have also established a Community Liaison Group to facilitate communication, share information and engage in constructive discussions about the design, construction and operational aspects of the museum project. The group’s terms of reference are available through local parish councils.
The museum will be the most significant civil-military integration site in the area, and the only one operating outside military security fencing. Volunteering, participation and a range of activities will bring communities together, providing opportunities to become part of a vibrant, friendly and inclusive museum community.
The Royal Artillery Museum is a registered charity that exists to preserve and promote Gunner heritage. Any profits made by the museum will help secure the long-term conservation of the museum collection.
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