x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Friendly face for tower at UK missile base

The Life: The council parish behind Greenham Common, the controversial former missile site in England, is selling an air traffic control tower there, asking for the best conversion idea rather than the highest bid.

The air traffic control tower at Greenham Common is on the market.
The air traffic control tower at Greenham Common is on the market.

It was the focus of an infamous Cold War-era protest with rows of tents housing up to 70,000 women demanding the removal of nuclear missiles.

But these days, Greenham Common, a former air base in Berkshire, England is attracting a different kind of potential tenant.

Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, the ancient common, once used by the United States Air Force as a base for cruise missiles, has been decommissioned and turned into public parkland.

Now West Berkshire Council is selling off a grade II listed air traffic control tower in the area to anyone with a bright idea about what to do with it.

After months of discussion the council has put the property on the market through the estate agent Carter Jonas, asking it to find the right person for the property.

According to the council, all sorts of uses will be considered including housing, offices, a cinema or even a place of worship.

Even more unusually there is no asking price quoted for the building with the council saying it is looking for the best idea for converting the building, rather than the highest cash bid.

So what have potential buyers got to play with?

The three-storey 15-metre tall tower, built in 1952, comprises 10 rooms as well as an octagonal viewing platform offering spectacular views over the historic park and beyond into the Berkshire countryside.

It stands in about half an acre of grounds on the northern edge of the common and is one of the few period buildings that remain on the former air base.

The council has already attracted one bid from Greenham parish council, which wants to turn the council into a visitors' centre but is struggling to attract the funds to do so.

But Carter Jonas says that potential buyers have already come forward with a range of other suggestions including using it as a private house, as a children's nursery or as an archive for material on wartime airfields.

Interested bidders have until 5pm on September 11 to make an offer.

 

Q&A

What happened at Greenham Common?

The ancient common was used as an airbase in the Second World War. However, in the 1980s it sprang to prominence when the British government gave permission for the United States Air Force to station 96 Cruise nuclear missiles there, prompting mass protests.

Who protested?

In September 1981 a group of Welsh women angry about the British government’s decision marched from Cardiff to the Greenham base to deliver a letter to the Greenham base commander outlining their opposition to nuclear weapons. When they received no reply they set up camp outside the base and stayed. Their camp became known as the Women’s Peace Camp and drew attention both nationally and internationally.

How long did they stay there?

The protest lasted 19 years until the missiles were eventually removed.

What was it like?

Life in the peace camp was primitive with no electricity, running water or telephones and with the constant threat of evictions or vigilante attacks. However, despite the conditions, women from all over the UK and Europe came to the camp to show their solidarity for the cause.

 

lbarnard@thenational.ae