Controversial plans to transform a much-loved heritage attraction have been recommended for approval despite “overwhelming” public opposition.

Ahead of a key meeting next Wednesday (April 20), Epping Forest District Council officer Graham Courtney has given his approval for a new children’s activity centre at the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey.

The 63 hectare site in Beaulieu Drive is one of the most important heritage sites in the district, mostly designated as a site of special scientific interest and containing 20 listed buildings.

Children’s activity company PGL and the attraction’s charitable foundation hope to create an outdoor ‘recreation and activity centre’ with new accommodation buildings, dining and changing rooms, building conversions for accommodation and classrooms, and a new water lake.

There would also be four zip wires and three ‘tunnel trails’.

There are fears that the development could have a negative impact on an existing visitor attraction at the site.

A report ahead of next week’s meeting says: “The concern is that the proposed PGL development is too large and takes up too much of the site, leaving too little scope for the remaining area to operate an attractive facility, including the loss of the ability to hold large events such that the future of the visitor attraction will be undermined.”

The council has received 59 letters of objection, with concerns including a loss of money to the visitor attraction, a negative impact on wildlife and reduced public access.

However, the attraction currently relies on a £400,000 grant every year to cover its running costs and it is hoped the PGL development can “support the long term future of the visitor attraction and the conservation of the site as a whole.”

The council report concludes that “this is a well thought out and designed scheme which will bring benefits to Waltham Abbey in terms of employment and tourism and will secure the long term maintenance of an important historic site.”

Dave Plummer, Green party district council candidate for Waltham Abbey South West, said the report “brushed off” the loss of much of the site to a private holiday company.

He added: “Little attention is paid to the overwhelming public opposition to the plans.

“The report says that no alternative proposals were received but, as yet, there's been no opportunity to propose any.

“A public meeting last autumn, which was intended to discuss alternatives, was allowed to become a meeting about the PGL proposals instead.

The PGL plans need to be rejected and a full, proper public consultation on the future of the Royal Gunpowder Mills started as soon as possible, before any more custom is lost.”

The council’s district development meeting will be held at 7.30pm next Wednesday at civic offices in Epping.

Following the meeting, a report on the council’s decision will be available online at and