PLANS for a huge Jehovah’s Witness “commune” on the outskirts of Chelmsford are gathering pace.
The International Bible Students Association, the charity which manages Jehovah’s Witnesses’ printing and literature distribution, wants to create a new British headquarters.
The 82-acre site (about 15 football pitches) at Temple Farm site, off Ship Road, West Hanningfield.
The plans include a printery - producing Bible-based literature - admin and language translation ofﬁces, video and sound production studios, an auditorium, training centre and workshops all on site.
Plus there will be one and two bedroom apartments - for up to 1,200 residents and visitors - along with onsite caterers, laundrettes and healthcare facilities.
The site would also have its own energy centre - making it self-sufficient - and a new access road would also be built from Temple Wood.
A resident from Stock, 60, who didn’t want to be named, said: “It’s all a bit Sci-fi if you ask me. It’s a very unusual development, a commune really. I wouldn’t say I was against it as it is all a bit of a mess at that site at the moment.”
The land, currently occupied by a car breakers yard, was removed from the green belt by Chelmsford City Council in 2008 and earmarked for employment use.
IBSA agreed to buy the land from its current owners in December, as long as they get planning permission for the project. The deal is expected to exceed £10million. The council did not confirm who the current land owners were.
Colin Massey, from CSM Consultancies for the developers, was speaking at public meetings in West Hanningfield and Stock at the weekend.
He said: “The management of historic contamination, and enhanced public footpaths through the countryside are just two positive benefits.
“A few understandable concerns were raised, such as traffic implications, design of buildings etc but most visitors were reassured when they were able to study and discuss actual details of the proposals.
“The reaction of the overwhelming majority of visitors was very positive.”
In January, Michael Bowers of ASB Skips was £6,000 fined by Chelmsford Magistrates for running illegal waste sites on the land and there is a history of enforcement notices served on previous owners.
In a letter to the council, IBSA said the land was “likely” to be contaminated.
IBSA’s headquarters is currently located in Mill Hill, North London. The charity sais it had chosen Temple Farm for its new home because it has “excellent transport links and is set in a beautiful rural location”.
A COUNCILLOR said plans for the live/work centre will improve the area - and that Jehovah’s Witnesses will make great neighbours.
Michael Harris, the Conservative ward councillor for Bicknacre, East and West Hanningfield, said: “I believe this development will make a huge, favourable difference to the area. It’s been a dreadful site for some time.
“There will be some areas of concern, but I would like to see this put in place as soon as possible.”
He added that the Jehovah’s Witnesses will make great neighbours. He said: “Before I retired, I worked for a construction company and these people were our corporate neighbours and they were always superb.”