Plans to transform a much-loved heritage attraction are being rushed through with no regard for local concerns, it has been claimed.

Yesterday (December 21) a petition signed by 813 people was handed to a representative of Epping Forest District Council, calling on the Royal Gunpowder Mills (RGM) to stop a proposed development with PGL Holidays.

The petitioners said a full public consultation is needed over the future of the site in Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey.

Children’s activity company PGL and the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills Charitable Foundation are planning a new outdoor activity centre with accommodation for 850 children and room for around 100 staff and teachers.

A new light railway, water activity lake, zip-wires, climbing walls and target range are also included in the plans.

There are fears the proposals could threaten jobs, valuable artefacts and public access to the site, and some believe popular concerns have been ignored.

Petition organiser Dave Plummer said: “Volunteers, visitors and local residents feel that we've been ignored and that there's been minimal consultation.

“The PGL plans were submitted the day before the recent public meeting [on December 1].

“I think that says everything you need to know about the disregard RGM's management have for local democracy.”

Murray Sackwild, of the Harlow and Epping National Union of Teachers, described the RGM as a fantastic local attraction for young people.

He added: “Anything that compromises that must be opposed.

“PGL is a profit making holiday company and its involvement will necessarily diminish accessibility for the public and, especially, young people and local schools.

“Nothing that I've seen in proposals and plans alleviate my considerable concerns.”

Andrew Coates is the chief executive of the RGM.

He said the development plans with PGL, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fun with a £5million grant, will secure the future of the entire site – including a scheduled monument and a site of special scientific interest.

“The current situation with the visitor’s attraction getting a subsidy from the foundation of hundreds of thousands of pounds is simply not sustainable so a new solution is required,” he said.

“This is not a public institution, it is run by a charitable trust who have the discretionary right to form a direction which is, in their opinion, the best for the site… the key thing here is this site, which is so important, needs security and a future.

“What people need to do is put forward solutions, not criticisms.”

After receiving the petition, a district council spokesman said: “The circumstances of this petition are a little unusual in that it relates to independent organisations rather than the council.

“We will keep hold of it over Christmas before taking a view on how it should be taken forward in the New Year.”