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Victory in battle for Britain's RAF heritage


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Victory in battle for Britain's RAF heritage

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

(Filed: 27/06/2005)

The "Ops" Room at RAF Uxbridge, from which the Battle of Britain was controlled and fought, is one of 172 buildings from the aviation history of two world wars to be given statutory protection by the Government.

The "listing" of 172 buildings on 33 sites is the result of a seven-year process of reviewing aviation sites by English Heritage that involved delicate negotiations with the Ministry of Defence, which was sensitive about listing operational bases.

The number of buildings to be listed Grade 1, II* or II has still to be finalised but the number of aviation buildings that will get statutory protection has been settled, David Lammy the new culture minister, told The Daily Telegraph.

Listing, which is carried out by English Heritage but has to be approved by ministers, means there is a presumption against redevelopment and consent for any alterations has to be sought through the planning system.

Listing will apply to buildings on Bomber Command's most famous base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, home of 617 "Dambuster" squadron and still an active RAF station, and at Upavon, Wilts, belonging to the original Central Flying School, which was started in 1912.

Also to be listed are buildings at the First World War aerodrome at Old Farum, Wilts, and the Battle of Britain aerodromes at Kenley, Surrey. The largest number of buildings to be listed are at the former RAF Duxford, now run by the Imperial War Museum.

Listing will also apply to the seaplane sheds at Lee-on-Solent, a base started by the Admiralty in 1917, taken over by the RAF in 1918, and transferred to the Fleet Air Arm as HMS Daedalus in 1939. A list of 212 sites worthy of listing was originally presented to the Ministry of Defence in 2000. This has been reduced to the present number, which ministers have decided should be listed this year, the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Mr Lammy said: "We're now coming to the end of a moment when the airmen themselves can tell their stories to a younger generation and in which they are present in the community.

"It is appropriate to preserve those pieces of our history, because they tell a story not just about the Second World War but about the great fight we waged against fascism and racism."

The listing was bound to be controversial as many of the aerodromes, hangars and messes to be listed are already under threat from development.

Airfields are usually "very obvious brown field sites," according to Roger Bowdler, the head of designations at English Heritage.

"We have got to think about the long-term future of these sites as they are of growing importance in the eyes of historians," he said.

The accommodation blocks and sergeant's mess at Biggin Hill - the fighter base on the North Downs that shot down its 1,000th enemy aircraft by 1943 - are among the most famous buildings to be listed.

But it is some of the lesser known airfields that are the most evocative, according to Mr Bowdler.

A large number of domestic buildings and hangars are to be listed, for example, at RAF Bicester, a bomber airfield that is "frozen in time" and still has its inter-war grass landing field.

Bicester was "a terribly moving place", said Mr Bowdler. "A derelict aerodrome has a terrific resonance. It is the 20th century equivalent of a ruined castle.''

www.telegraph.co.uk . . .

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