More radar shelters approved for Menwith Hill spy base

Operations are set to expand at the secretive military communications base at RAF Menwith Hill, despite residents’ concerns over “foreign powers” operating from the site.

Menwith Hill.

Harrogate Borough Council this week approved the application made by the Ministry of Defence for three additional radar shelters at the North Yorkshire spy base.

A planning report said that while local Parish councils didn’t object to the proposal for the new radomes, objections were received from six members of the public concerned over the involvement of “foreign powers” at the base, as well as the likelihood of more shelters being applied for.

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Hundreds of personnel from a variety of international intelligence bodies – including staff from the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and America’s National Security Agency (NSA) – operate from the Menwith Hill site.

Regular protests are held at the station from multiple groups opposed to the operations reportedly run from the base and the presence of international military personnel.

According to documents lodged by the Ministry of Defence, the proposed additions are “required to meet the operational output of the station”.

Once built, the move will bring the total number of randomes – nicknamed ‘golf balls’ because of their white, dimpled appearance – at the base to 37.

The radomes protect radars from the weather, while also concealing their operations.

In approving the plans, Harrogate Borough Council found that more radomes “would not materially affect the wider landscape as the overall impact would remain akin to the present situation.”

They stated the impact would not be significant “in the overall context of this military establishment” and there would be no undue harm to the site.

The application is the latest one the Ministry of Defence has lodged with the local authority.

It comes after Harrogate council approved construction of a single additional radome in November 2018, which is scheduled to be built in August 2021.

Also approved last year was the demolition of 13 buildings at the site including an accomodation block a school.

That followed a major downsizing of personnel at the base announced in 2015, which saw hundreds of workers cut in a move attributed to technological advancements.