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Plans for base open a new can of worms

PUBLISHED: 08:02 13 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 22 October 2010

STEVE DOWNES

The longest continually occupied radar station in Britain, which has protected our skies from enemy planes for 60 years, could be in for a radical change of use - maybe even as a worm farm.

The longest continually occupied radar station in Britain, which has protected our skies from enemy planes for 60 years, could be in for a radical change of use - maybe even as a worm farm.

The idea is among a number of potential options for RAF Neatishead, much of which has been put up for sale by the Ministry of Defence since it was announced that it would be scaled down in 2004.

North Norfolk District Council has drawn up a "position statement" on the base in a bid to let potential buyers know what would and would not be acceptable.

The council suggests low density employment use, including a data storage facility or office accommodation, intensive farming - like a mushroom or worm farm - equestrian uses, or small scale leisure and tourism.

The position statement, drawn up because RAF Neatishead is in the area covered by the council's planning department, spells out concerns about the surrounding roads, which are C roads and not designed for heavy traffic.

It also points out that the 12.9ha base - of which 2.61ha is being retained by the MoD for radar use - is in an "environmentally sensitive" area, close to the Broads.

It says: "The council believes that the remote rural location and poor highway access, together with the sensitive landscape and environmental context of the site being within close proximity to the Broads, serves to limit the re-development potential."

Defence Estates is proposing to dispose of the site as a single lot, and has appointed Lambert Smith Hampton to advertise it in the next few weeks and to sell it by the end of March 2007.

The buildings for sale include a fascinating underground bunker, whose access is disguised inside an innocent-looking bungalow. The base was not even shown on public maps until a few years ago in an attempt to keep its location a secret.

Among the buildings, a number are to be given listed status, including the type 84 radar and R17 modulator building, which is the last surviving cold war radar in England, and the underground bunker.

Another part of the site is the award-winning Air Defence Radar Museum, which the MoD has agreed to allow to continue in its current use.

Yesterday, the council's cabinet agreed the position statement, and emphasised its support for the museum.

Members also reiterated the view that the surrounding roads would not support major development.


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