Plan for houses on Cold War airbase

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A public inquiry has began (September 30th) into proposals for the construction of houses on one of the largest US Air Force bases in Europe during the Cold War. The North Oxford Consortium plans to develop 1,075 houses on the RAF Upper Heyford Site in Oxfordshire. The airbase housed reconnaissance and fighter aircraft including the F-111 fighter plane or ‘Aardvark’. It has a runway almost two miles long and was redeveloped in the 1950s to handle the heavy B52 bombers used by the US air force at the beginning of the Cold War. Used from 1924 until 1991, when the US withdrew from the base, it was closed in 1994 and was made a Conservation Area in 2006. It includes around 400 buildings, including four Hardened Aircraft Shelters, which guarded the F-111s from attack. Nigel Barker, the head of the English Heritage Team for Oxfordshire, will give evidence at the inquiry, in an attempt to satisfy the needs for new housing and the preservation of the site. English Heritage will propose that some of the historic structures could be re-used ‘to help fund the management and maintenance of the flying field for future generations’ (Nigel Barker). The secure shelters, for example, could be transformed into storage depots for records and archives.

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