The NSRA, Hut 103 and 25 years of failing to build a hotel

Q: For how long has the National Smallbore Rifle Association promised to use a derelict plot of land it owns at Bisley Camp to build a hotel? A: A full quarter of a century.

Regular Bisley Camp users will be fully aware of the ramshackle old building on the left as you drive into Bisley Camp. Formally known as Hut 103, the former Army cookhouse has been mostly derelict since the closure of curio exhibition The Trench Experience, which was run by NRA and Artists’ Rifles member Eddie Jones.

Jones noted at the 2012 Bisley General Meeting* – an annual meeting, led by the NRA, at which users of Bisley Camp come together to air their grievances about items of not-always-mutual interest – “The NSRA are building a hotel on the Hut 103 site, which will be ready in time for the Olympics, so they have another 18 days to complete that.”

So for how long has the NSRA been promising to do something with Hut 103?

Looking back at the NRA General Council minutes of June 2006, we learn:

A question was asked whether the NRA had discussed with the NSRA what their intentions were in relation to developing the old cook house as it had become an eye-sore.

The meeting was informed that the Managing Director of NSC had approached the NSRA to have the building taken down under Health and Safety Regulations. To date this had not progressed because of an asbestos problem and the costs associated with its removal.

That’s not the only historical mention of a hotel on the site of Hut 103. A quick look over Guildford Borough Council’s website turns up a 2009 application for “Erection of a two storey accommodation lodge with 77 car parking spaces”. Sadly we can’t link to this, given how GBC’s website works, but if you go to their “search for a planning application” page, click the blue button labelled “view a planning application” and then type “09/P/00177” in, you’ll find it.

In 2012 that permission was extended (PDF document, 3 pages) “to enable construction of the works when the economic conditions improve.” We’re now in 2015 and Hut 103 remains firmly in place.

Going back a little further, in 2001 the NSRA submitted an application – reference 01/P/01533 – for a “two storey accommodation building”. Seeing a pattern yet?

All this seems like reasonably recent history. The NSRA have spent time, effort and presumably significant sums of money, on getting planning permission for their pet hotel scheme. Having done this, they seem to sit around and do nothing with that permission, occasionally renewing it when it comes close to expiring. Meanwhile, Hut 103 (and Hut 105, to the immediate rear of 103) continues to fester away.

The NSRA has been doing this ‘renew it as it gets close to expiring’ act, on and off, for 25 years. This public consultation, from 1989, invites residents covered by Surrey Heath borough council to comment on an application for “erection of 120 bedroom Hotel following demolition of existing stores.”

One wonders what NSRA members make of all the futile time and effort spent repeatedly obtaining permission for something that’s never come to fruition. Perhaps if half that time, effort and money expended over the last quarter of a century had been spent clearing the asbestos out of Hut 103, there’d be a new building on its site today.

* Incidentally, the minutes of the BGMs make marvellous reading if you’ve the patience to wade through the tub-thumping verbiage. Shortly after mentioning Hut 103, Jones was forced to admit that he was paying off a £1,500 debt to the NRA at the princely sum of £4 per week, following a court order. UKSN also found a letter from one Edward Jones on the Guildford Borough Council planning application website, dated the day after the 2012 Bisley General Meeting, questioning whether the existing planning permission was still valid.

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