GreenhamCommon goes back to nature

GREENHAM COMMON, the former cruise missile base and scene of one of the greatest women's protests in history, is to be reborn as a wildlife reserve and eco-friendly business park.

Where trespassers risked being shot just 15 years ago, the public will be able to enjoy the slightly surreal prospect of walking on what was one of the coldest symbols of the Cold War.

The scheme, now just a year away from completion, is the creation of Greenham Common Trust, a charitable organisation of local benefactors which bought the former US air-base from the Ministry of Defence two years ago for pounds 7m.

The motivation for the Trust was to avoid letting Greenham Common, declared redundant by the US military in 1992, fall into disrepair. "We didn't want Greenham to go the way of other old air-bases. All the best bits are sold off to the highest bidder while the other, less desirable parts, are left to become derelict," said the Trust's chief executive, Stuart Tagg, who admitted the site had been bought "warts and all - and there were a fair few warts".

The Trust then sold most of the base, 700 acres, to the local council for pounds 1. Its remit was to transform the derelict open spaces into a traditional common of heathland, home to a wide range of flora and fauna. The verges of the runway have already been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The Trust is now employing consultants to produce a feasibility study into how the business park, the remaining 200 acres, can be made as environmentally sensitive as possible, qualifying for a European Commission grant available to "100 per cent green" communities. As a Trust, all profits made from property rents will be reinvested in local community schemes.

Today, the former air-base retains a military feel. Vast oil storage tanks litter the landscape. The perimeter fencing remains - along with a few caravans housing long-term peace protesters - but the main military detritus has been removed: the barracks have gone, recently razed to make space for a new phase of the business park.

Many of the air force buildings have already been converted for more peaceful uses. The former sergeants' mess is now a community art centre which employs a resident potter, and the old court house is now a base for the local branch of Mencap, the mental health organisation. Within 12 months the public will be able to walk along the former taxiway, which will be a gateway to the common, using a network of footpaths and cycle routes. Where hardfaced US military personnel once kept watch on picketing peace protesters, now soft-eyed cattle graze.

"The common will go back to what it was historically," said Mr Tagg. "We hope this will be a way to show how the most negative of events can be turned into a positive. We thought about changing the name but that would be to deny the history, which is enormously powerful."

The runway - location for some of the most potent Cold War images of the 1980s, when US cruise missiles were flown in - is being crunched up for recycling and the control tower is to be a visitors' centre. English Nature, the RSPB and other wildlife organisations are being consulted on how to create the most diverse range of species.

The silos remain the property of the Ministry of Defence until 2001, when ownership will be transferred to the Trust and the three rings of fences which surround them will be removed.

Bruce Kent, vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, welcomed the scheme. "There is an irony in this. The whole peace movement brought the issue of nuclear weapons out of the cupboard of secrecy," he said. Mr Kent also called for a monument to the women to be erected on the common. "Their efforts did as much to empower women as it did to remove the weapons."

Joan Smith, the Independent on Sunday columnist who reported and participated in protests at Greenham Common, said the history of the anti-nuclear campaign should be recorded. "I'm a little suspicious of flowery notions about nature but if the common is to return to the people, there must be some recognition of a protest that touched so many people's lives."

News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
newsTV star had been reported missing
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Teacher Required We are curr...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone