Battle of Bosworth site swallowed by driverless test track, despite local opposition
Image credit: Dreamstime
The go-ahead has been granted for the construction of a 1.2 million square foot test track for driverless cars on the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field (pictured), despite strong local opposition.
Members at a planning committee meeting for Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council voted overwhelmingly last night in favour of the project, which is led by Japanese-owned automotive company Horiba Mira.
The decision came despite a local petition which attracted over 4,000 signatures that called for the project to be scrapped, partly due to the historical importance of the site.
The Battle of Bosworth, which took place in 1485, was a significant event which saw Richard III being defeated by Henry Tudor, later Henry VII.
A spokesman for heritage charity The Battlefields Trust labelled the decision, which was backed by 12 votes to five, “a very depressing result”.
He added: “This country is going to lose a massive heritage asset.”
In its application, Horiba Mira said the facility was being created “in a direct response to the UK government’s initiative to invest in the global trends in “Connected and Autonomous Vehicles” (CAV) technologies.”
The “facility design considers the need to provide an environment where vehicles can be tested at various speeds up to their limit under various highway scenarios.”
In particular this means a large area is needed to allow vehicles to get up to top speed, especially those using “robotic drivers” which are “potentially high-risk tests demanding large safety run-off areas”.
Horiba Mira also rejected calls to locate the facility elsewhere, saying that if it was built further south of the field it would be shortened in length which would prevent many of the tests being carried out, including autonomous truck platooning for merging and de-merging scenarios with fully laden vehicles.
The Battlefields Trust spokesman said that the test centre will prevent the battle from being presented in its entirety, making the site less attractive for tourists.
“It is like watching [WWII movie] ‘Saving Private Ryan’ without seeing the first 20 minutes,” he said.
However, the council believes the opportunities presented by the development outweigh the negatives.
Historic England described the battle as “one of the most pivotal in English history”, in a letter to the council urging them to reject the plans before the vote.
It added: “The development proposal is a substantial structure and would have a direct physical impact through altering the rural character of part of the battlefield.
“The construction of a Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) testing track, control tower, storage building, ground works, landscaping and associated infrastructure would impact both the topographic integrity and archaeological potential of the battlefield.”
The site “continues to receive considerable public interest” and the “archaeological potential” of the battlefield would also be effected, according to the letter.
Earlier this month, transport information firm Inrix identified the UK roads that would benefit the most from driverless lorry technology.
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