The project to convert the former Control Tower at RAF Greenham Common may have received planning permission (actually 15 years ago as it turned out) for change of use but a wildlife trust may yet still have the last word.
As part of the planning conditions Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife trust (BBOWT) are insisting that Greenham Parish Council (GPC) fund wardens to “protect wildlife” when the centre opens adding a further financial strain on a much-needed project already running late.
As it turned out change of use permission had already been given in 2000 which helped West Berkshire Council avoid the embarrassing situation of refusing permission for a project it effectively backed in the sale of the site to Greenham Parish Council but BBOWT had asked for any decision to be deferred until they had reached an agreement with GPC, a request that was refused.
GPC do however have to meet the environmental conditions imposed in the change of use.
As a small parish council they have stated to BBOWT that upfront funding for wardens will not be possible and have put forward a package of “mitigation that we think is proportionate, justifiable and sustainable”. BBOWT has refused to accept this package.
Greenham Parish Council stated: “All along, we’ve made it clear that we’re unable to meet BBOWT’s aspirations for significant upfront cash funding for wardens, and that situation hasn’t changed” after the decision.
On their website BBOWT said: “Our experience shows that many people who visit the Commons are not aware of the vulnerability of these species, but do take our advice to walk their dogs on other parts of the Common when they are given information by the on-site wardens.
We will be working with Greenham Parish Council to help them develop the zoned areas and wardens on the Commons, particularly during the ground-nesting birds breeding season.”
Greenham Control Tower Visitors Centre was originally planned to be open in Autumn 2015 but delays with Planning and environmental issues have resulted in delays. If BBOWT continue to refuse packages put forward it is unclear when the centre will open to the public depriving thousands of the chance to see this site with its unqiue position in British history.