Post Cold War
In 1995, the Alconbury Airfield site was acquired by Prologis in conjunction with BAA Lyton. Applications were put to Huntingdonshire District Council which foresaw the development of the site into a freight interchange, with road and rail access, and an overriding B8, storage or distribution use for the site itself. Having been called in for a public inquiry, permission for 7 million square feet of B8 use was granted in 2003 by the Secretary of State.
At this stage some baseline heritage appraisals of the site and its buildings were undertaken including in 1998 by the University of Leicester Archaeological Service (ULAS), and in 2001 by Paul Francis, an expert in military airfield history and architecture, and author of British Military Airfield Architecture from Airships to the Jet Age. The two were collated in June 2001 for presentation to the inspector and were used to inform Prologis’s proposals for the site.
At the point at which these applications were presented, English Heritage was undertaking a nationwide assessment of Cold War military architecture and it was at this point that the site’s four listed buildings were identified for statutory protection. The Prologis scheme, as consented, envisaged a substantial degree of demolition and very little retention in situ. Indeed, the site sought to protect just two areas: to the north-east the Avionics Building along with some of the TR-1 hangars was to be protected, whilst in the south-eastern corner (next to the current USAF enclave) a small ‘Leisure and Amenity Area’ was to be developed.
Here, three NATO Hardened Aircraft Shelters, along with the listed Watch Office (dismantled and re-sited from the Technical Area) and one of the Nose Docking Sheds from north of the runway (also to be moved), were to be retained. This decision recognised that these buildings were entirely lacking in context, a view endorsed by English Heritage in a letter of 10th May 2001.
The works proposed within the Prologis scheme have not been implemented. However, the baseline appraisals undertaken and the views of English Heritage and the Inspecto, provide a solid baseline for understanding the significance of the site.
In 2007 Prologis obtained a temporary consent to use the site’s buildings for B8 and light industrial (B1/B2) uses. The site was subsequently sold to Urban&Civic in 2009. Urban&Civic obtained an extension to the temporary consents until 2015 while development proposals for the future were prepared. To see the latest progress since Urban&Civic’s purchase of the site, please see our Timeline.