Tuesday, 30 September 2008

History in the News: controversial development on Cold War airbase

Plans for housing development on Oxfordshire Cold War airbase

30th September 2008

A public inquiry began today into proposals for the construction of 1,075 houses by the North Oxford Consortium on the RAF Upper Heyford Site in Oxfordshire.

The airbase was one of the largest US Air Force bases in Europe during the Cold War. It housed reconnaissance and fighter aircraft including the famous F-111 fighter plane known as the “Aardvark”. It has a runway almost two miles long and was redeveloped in the 1950s in order to be able to handle the heavy B52 bombers used by the US air force at the beginning of the Cold War.

It was used from 1924 until 1991, when the US withdrew from the base. It was closed in 1994 and designated as a Conservation Area in 2006. It includes around 400 buildings and structures, including four Hardened Aircraft Shelters, which protected the F-111s from an aerial attack.

Nigel Barker, the head of the English Heritage Team for Oxfordshire, will give evidence at the inquiry on behalf of English Heritage, in an attempt to satisfy the needs for both new housing and the preservation of the site, which remains a unique testimony to the perceived Soviet threat and consequent scale of investment for the defense of the West.

Nigel Barker of English Heritage proposes that some of the historic structures could be re-used “to help fund the management and maintenance of the flying field for future generations”. The shelters, for example, could be transformed into storage depots various companies’ and organisations’ paper records and archives.

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