Ideas wanted to create a Greenham pleasant land

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The Independent Online
The Future of Greenham Common, where thousands of women peace protesters campaigned throughout the Eighties, is to be decided by a public competition.

The Greenham Common Trust, which bought the former Berkshire airbase from the Ministry of Defence in March, is awarding pounds 10,000 for the best idea for the site, which includes former cruise missile silos.

The decision to hold a competition was, according to organisers Vail Williams, because it was "such an important and unusual site". Co-ordinator David Nassif said: "Because it has been bought by a trust, rather than a commercial developer, there's no urgency to tear the buildings down. It will be interesting to see what people come up with."

The competition, which costs pounds 15 to enter, closes on 5 December and will be judged by the composer Lord Lloyd-Webber, who lives near the site, Sir Peter Michael, the chairman of Classic FM, and the architect Sir Norman Foster. The winner will be announced in January. A separate competition for the design and siting of sculpture is being run concurrently with the Royal Society of Sculpture.

The trust is said to be particularly interested in ideas capable of attracting grants from the National Lottery. Any profits will go towards restoring the open areas, and be used to benefit the local community.

The competition, which has so far been advertised within the architectural and construction press, has already attracted many inquiries with at least 50 entrants touring the site up to last week.

"We've had interest coming from everyone from property professionals to environmental people to local people. There's even a university project," Mr Nassif said. "The site has always generated interest among local people. They've been trying to get it back since it was 'stolen' in the 1940s."

Greenham Common became an airbase in 1941 and was occupied by the US Air Force until the early Nineties. The base, covering 364 hectares, was sold by the MoD to the Greenham Common Trust, which consists of Newbury District Council and a group of local businesses, for pounds 7m. The trust then sold all but the commercial area of the site for pounds 1 to Newbury council, which aims to return it to use as an open area. Concrete and tarmac from the the runways are being recycled for use on the Newbury bypass.

The trust is now managing and developing the commercial area and since 1994 the existing buildings have been let out. Occupiers include a childcare centre and a ballroom. One building, earmarked to become a museum/visitor centre, was purpose-built as a command and control centre with walls one metre thick, steel doors and a chemical-warfare decontamination suite.

Because of its former use, there have been repeated concerns about radiation hazards. But the latest report, prepared by Southampton University and the Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre, concluded that there was no more radiation around Greenham Common than anywhere else.