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Whimsical exhibition: "Little Britain" in Kretzhaus on the brink of extinction after all

Whimsical exhibition : "Little Britain" in Kretzhaus on the brink of extinction after all

Gary Blackburn has collected all kinds of bizarre things and exhibits them on his leasehold premises in Kretzhaus. A meeting of the local council of Erpel could be the end for "Little Britain".

Does the end of Great Britain's EU membership also threaten the end of "Little Britain" in Kretzhaus? That could be the case after the vote of the Erpel municipal council at its meeting on Monday, August 24. The council members want to create clarity with regard to building regulations and bring "a procedure that has lasted more than two years with a lot of back and forth" to a conclusion, as Erpel's mayor Günter Hirzmann explains.

The focus is on the land that British-born Gary Blackburn, who has been the head of a tree service company in Germany since 1985 and now has dual citizenship, has leased from the community for around five years. He uses the almost 2000 square meters of space next to his company premises and residential building, which is located in Linz-Kretzhaus but belongs to the Erpel district, for his private collection: the exhibition "Little Britain", which is free for visitors and which is a source of much displeasure to Stein.

After the Brexit referendum in 2016, Blackburn collected what is considered typically British there: from a life-size image of the Queen to a red telephone box, from a double-decker bus to a 52-ton Centurion tank.

A tourist attraction for some

"If you walk along the Kasbach hiking trail, you walk straight through the collection of curiosities," reports Hirzmann, although he describes it as "quite entertaining". For some people it is even a tourist attraction. "Visitors from all over Germany, England, Spain and even the USA have come to see it," says Blackburn.

However: Not only the vehicles, but also the huts that have been built there over time are illegal, according to the Neuwied district administration, which had already ruled so in 2018. The district asked Blackburn to obtain permission for the exhibits. "According to the building code, the area is an 'outdoor area'. Therefore, nothing may be changed or built there," explains Hirzmann.

If the exhibition was to remain like this, the land use plan would have to be changed and a development plan drawn up, which the local council is now voting on. Legalisation would only be possible through changes to the plan, which would incur costs of around 100,000 euros: "These costs would have to be borne by Mr Blackburn and not by the community," says Hirzmann.

Missed deadlines on the part of Blackburn

He looks forward to the Council decision "with one laughing and one crying eye". After all, many things in the matter of Little Britain have "gone anything but well," says Hirzmann, who also points to missed deadlines on Blackburn's part: "Three alone in the year since I became mayor. In addition, "the authorities should have intervened, given the dimensions the exhibition has now taken on". Until four years ago, Little Britain had not been an issue and the exhibition site had not been as crowded. As the number of visitors grows, a community must also think about parking and access. Apart from the fact that, among other things, nature and species protection are also at stake.

The local mayor also wants a quick decision because Little Britain also ties up administrative staff. "Everything is possible from absolute agreement to none", Hirzmann believes in the run-up to the council meeting: "All opinions are available in the council".

A sign of Anglo-German friendship

Gary Blackburn would be "sad if all was in vain". Especially since Little Britain is supposed to be a sign of the German-British friendship and to bring people together. In connection with some official authorities he speaks of "conspiracy" and wishes for a better information policy: "My architect and I sometimes didn't know which documents were required, and every time it turned out that something was missing.

Blackburn is willing to pay the cost of the change in plans. Although he has lived in Kretzhaus for 25 years, he has already set his sights on another location - and he would move there with the exhibition, his company and his family if there were no future for Little Britain at its present location, he emphasises.

(Original text: Andrea Simons; Translation: Mareike Graepel)