In 1993, the MoD declared that it no longer needed Greenham Common as a military base and offered it for sale. Greenham Common Community Trust was established to buy Greenham Common from the MoD, which it did, at a cost of £7m. The money was raised by the Trust in the City.
In March 1997, Greenham Common, including the Control Tower and the land surrounding it, was sold to West Berkshire Council for £1. The Trust kept the developed land (the “technical area”), which is now Greenham Business Park, the profits from which are all returned to the community in the form of grants and other support. An amazing model, of which we can all be very proud.
The deal was done for £1 on the understanding and expectation that all of the land and buildings sold to West Berkshire Council would be put to community use, and the Trust holds a covenant over the land that was put in place with this objective in mind.
Act of Parliament
Most of the land has been returned to common, and is now uniquely protected in perpetuity by the Greenham and Crookham Commons Act 2002.
However, the Control Tower and the land and other buildings surrounding it were not included in the land designated as Common under the Act.
The reason was entirely sensible. The intention was of course to put the buildings to community use, as with the rest of the Common – but any “change of use” or development of the buildings would be very difficult indeed if they ended up as part of the Common as covered by the Act, even if the proposal was exactly in line with the community use intention. It was felt that the covenant held by the Trust was sufficient protection against inappropriate use or development.
Up To Date
However, that was 10 years ago, in a different time. Since then, control of West Berkshire Council has changed hands, and the current Conservative Administration has shown little interest in preserving the Control Tower for community use. Cash is king, it seems, and the heritage of Greenham Common is of merely secondary interest to them.
Estate Agents have been instructed to market the Control Tower, and an impressive multi-page colour sales brochure has been produced by the Council’s Estate Agents, despite the fact that Greenham Councillors Julian Swift-Hook and Billy Drummond are working with Greenham Parish Council to preserve the building for the community.
It is worth noting that (unlike 10 years ago) none of the Councillors who will make the decisions affecting the future of the Control Tower live near Greenham Common. It is perhaps understandable, therefore, that their interest in the Common and its unique history is not as great as it is for us.
The one thing that may change the minds of the people in charge at the Council is public opinion.
So we are raising a petition in Greenham and Newbury to demonstrate the strength of public opinion in favour of keeping the Control Tower for the community, and it would help enormously if you could show your support by signing it. Just click here to go to the petition.