29 December 2003
US to erect another Son of Star Wars 'golf ball'
THE United States is to build another giant "golf ball" at a signals intelligence station in North Yorkshire as it prepares the site for its new role as part of the "Son of Star Wars" missile defence system.
The antenna, with a dish diameter of 72ft, will be housed inside a radome with a 100ft diameter at Menwith Hill, which was occupied for over 48 hours by Greenpeace protesters in 2001.
The new radome is to be built close to two Space Based Infra Red System radomes - part of the missile defence shield to protect the US from attack by rogue states - which have already been erected on the 560-acre site eight miles west of Harrogate.
Menwith Hill, an island within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, already has more than 30 radomes, but Harrogate Council cannot refuse planning permission and normally does not object to expansion.
Following the Greenpeace demonstration, which focused worldwide publicity on Menwith Hill, Defence Minister Lord Brach promised security would be reviewed there and at the Fylingdales early warning station on the North York Moors near Whitby.
More than two years later it is now intended to erect an 8ft tall security fence topped with razor wire around the southern part of the Menwith Hill base alongside the A59 Harrogate to Skipton road.
At present this part of the site, which has public roads running around all four sides of it, has few signs that it is a high security area now patrolled day and night by armed police.
But the entire operations area will be enclosed when the new fence is erected.
The notice of proposed development sent to the council also shows that security will be maintained by 36 static closed circuit television cameras directed along the fenceline beside the A59 and another four CCTV cameras mounted on 26ft towers with a 360 degree view.
The latest development has been criticised by Lindis Percy, 61, a co-founder of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, who climbed the gates of Buckingham Palace and unfurled a banner with the words Bush not Welcome on the eve of the US President's arrival in Britain in November.
Although specialists White Young Green Environmental, of Leeds, were commissioned to do a landscape impact study on the security fence, Ms Percy said their conclusion that it would be "inconsequential" was predictable.
In a badger survey for Defence Estates expert John Drewitt found no indication of a sett on the military land but said it was possible a badger was using a fence gap to forage in a nearby wood.
Ms Percy and CAAB's co-founder, Anni Rainbow, intend to lodge an objection when the additions are considered by the area planning committee. Ms Percy, a qualified midwife, who lives in Hull but works as a health visitor in Bradford, said: "This is a significant and major development."