Neatishead radar museum overcomes fire safety blip

PUBLISHED: 11:00 29 December 2010

Doug Robb in the Cold War room at the air defence radar museum at the former RAF Neatishead
Photo: Bill Smith
Copy: Ed Foss
For: EDP Sunday
Archant © 2007
(01603) 772434

Doug Robb in the Cold War room at the air defence radar museum at the former RAF Neatishead Photo: Bill Smith Copy: Ed Foss For: EDP Sunday Archant © 2007 (01603) 772434

Archant © 2007

An award winning military museum in Norfolk is to reopen in the spring after overcoming fire safety problems.

And the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum at Neatishead near Wroxham is also set to launch a fund-raising drive in the New Year in a bid to buy its historic home which was a vital listening post during the Cold War.

It was forced to shut two months early this year after an inspection by a Ministry of Defence inspector was unhappy with fire escape provision.

Museum trustees were hoping property owners Defence Estates would pay the £50,000 bill to improve detection systems, emergency lighting and fire extinguishers.

But manager Doug Robb said government spending restraints, including on defence, meant the ministry was “having trouble getting money to spend on operational things in the front line” let alone things like the museum buildings.

It had been decided to press ahead with improvements themselves, even though it was “spending money on someone else’s building” - but also to look at renewing its earlier bids to buy the building.

“We have a bit of resource, but we may have to launch some kind of public appeal in the New Year,” he added.

The museum was awaiting estimates for the work, and a valuation for the building, but was aiming to be open for early April.

It charts the history of air defence radar since its invention in 1935, its use in the second world war and for monitoring the movement of Soviet plans during the Cold War.

Back in 2007 the museum, which normally attracts about 6,000 visitors a year, was named the nation’s best small visitor attraction in the Enjoy England awards.

Mr Robb said the bid to buy the listed building “all depends on the figures” from the valuer.

Morale among the volunteers had been hit by the early closure which lost them the months of September and October, but the helpers had rallied around and has used the closure to carry out work on projects and displays.

There was also plenty of support coming in from “£5 from little old ladies to companies promising work at reasonable rates.”

Mr Robb, who has been manager at the museum for 13 of its 15-year history, will be retiring in 2011, after a successor was appointed. He is Christopher Morshead, a former Fleet Air Arm engineer, who has museums experience at Windsor Castle and is a volunteer at Brookslands museum. He joins on February 1 but will be working in tandem with Mr Robb for a while.

The museum will also be seeking to recruit to its army of volunteers. Anyone interested should call 01692 631485.

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