Signal lost as BT kills a radio star

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One of Britain's most visible symbols of the telecommunications age is to be torn down to make way for what will become the largest development scheme for more than a decade.

The 1,700-acre Rugby Radio Station site, home to hundreds of masts and antennae, is to be redeveloped by BT.

When it opened in 1926, Rugby Radio Station was home to the world's most powerful radio transmitter, and a year later the first transatlantic call to the US was made from the site. Over the next 70 years Rugby Radio Station was central to further advances in telecommunications, being used for transmitting telegrams, ship navigation and even providing the signal for the "atomic clock".

But the arrival of satellite communications has gradually made the site redundant and BT is searching for a partner to redevelop it. A well-known landmark for commuters on the M1, it could be a serious money-spinner for BT. Property agents estimated its land value alone at nearly £400m, and, fully developed, possibly billions.

John Pike, director of BT Property Partners, said the site will be home to a mixture of commercial and residential users. "We expect to be drawing up a shortlist of partners with a view to securing an agreement with a suitable developer by the early summer."

Securing planning consent will be BT's biggest hurdle. The company has already held discussions with Warwickshire and Northamptonshire county councils as well as Daventry and Rugby district councils. But because the site already has the masts, it is classed as "brownfield land", which comes with a relaxed planning regime.