A plan to display a private collection of steam engines, fairground rides and mechanical organs has been accepted by the council today (Wednesday).

The Comet: Part of the collection is the 110 key Mortier OrganPart of the collection is the 110 key Mortier Organ (Image: Archant)

Steam enthusiast John Saunders’s plan for a Stotfold museum was unanimously approved by Central Bedfordshire Council in a Development Management Committee meeting.

The planning application will now be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who will have 28 days to respond upon receiving the application.

The attraction would be built on land opposite Great Boundary Farm, north of Baldock Road, and on public display by summer 2015.

The scheme is expected to employ around 70 people, and provide a major tourism attraction to Stotfold and the surrounding area.

As well as housing the Saunders collection of steam engines and equipment, the site would also be used as a leisure venue for tea dances, Christmas shows and band nights.

Mr Saunders, who is the president of the Preservation of the Bedford Steam Engine Preservation Trust and also sits on Stotfold Town Council, said:

“It is a relief to see the plan approved as we have had two previous bids rejected and it would have been six and a half years down the drain. It’s a valuable collection and the council view it as an attraction of national importance.

“We have the largest operational steam and mechanical organ collection in the UK, and probably the world. Some of this kit is extremely rare, and things like the old fairground can’t be built again so they need to be seen.

“The collection was established in 1961 by my late father Reg Saunders who purchased a steamroller for £75.

“My brother Terrence and I have always been interested in steam. We were on steam rollers and messing around in coal bunkers by the age of 11.

“There is the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden Park and the Stondon Motor Museum at Henlow as well so there would be three museums for local people to enjoy in one day.”

Many machines from the Saunders collection are displayed at Stotfold Watermill each year during the Steam Fair and Country Show in May and the Working Steam Weekend in October.