Sat, 15 Sept 2018
IT has lain dormant for more than 25 years, but last Friday Greenham Common’s control tower officially flung open its doors to the public in a fanfare of flags and historical remembrance.
Long gone are the US airmen and cruise missiles, replaced now by coffee and cakes and a panoramic view that stretches across the countryside for miles.
The control tower has gone from Cold War relic to café, with the Grade II-listed building no longer home to meteorologists and air traffic controllers, but instead a café, exhibition rooms and viewing gallery.
The opening celebrations were overseen by Judith Bunting, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the past two elections, who introduced three of the directors of Greenham Control Tower Ltd, the not-for-profit organisation set up by Greenham Parish Council last year to take over the running of the iconic building.
The directors’ speeches re-called the history of the building and how the former RAF base had put the sleepy market town of Newbury on the front line of the Cold War.
Deputy Lieutenant of Berkshire Christina Hill Williams was then invited to cut the ribbon to officially open the building to the public.
She said it was her “great pleasure” to attend the event, adding: “This is an iconic building. It played a vital part in the history of the 20th century.”
Director of Greenham Control Tower Ltd Meg Thomas said: “It is such a relief it is open. I can hardly believe it has happened.
“It is thanks to the people who financed us, Greenham Common Trust as it was then, and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is also thanks to all the people who have worked on and discussed the possibility of a refurbishment over so many years.”
The community facility includes a permanent exhibition to the Cold War and will also host talks, music events, walking history tours and temporary exhibitions on subjects such as wildlife, the peace women and the Royal International Air Tattoo, which was held at RAF Greenham Common from 1973 to 1983.
Newbury and District Amateur Radio Society (NADARS) also attended the event and spent the weekend operating from the control tower with the special call sign GB4GCT, making 550 contacts in 55 different countries.
NADARS and Newbury Weekly News chairman Jeremy Willis said it had been a very successful weekend.
The project has not been without its stumbling blocks, however, including a £60,000 bill for a planning application that wasn’t required and an audit, which found that the parish council had operated beyond its powers and without proper legal authority.
In October last year Newbury MP Richard Benyon launched a scathing attack on the tower’s redevelopment, but Greenham parish councillors hit back, saying it had “overwhelming positive support” from the public.
For more information about the control tower and opening times, visit the website www. greenhamtower.org.uk