Historic Second World War watch tower to be restored under plan

Pathfinder House, home of Huntingdonshire District Council.

Pathfinder House, home of Huntingdonshire District Council. - Credit: Archant

An historic wartime building at the former Alconbury airfield is set to be brought back to life after a major restoration programme.

The watch office and operations building - which played a key part in raids during the early years of the Second World War - has been described as the best-preserved example of the few remaining buildings of its type.

Plans to carry out work on the Grade II-listed watch office have just been submitted to Huntingdonshire District Council by Urban and Civic, the firm behind the redevelopment of the former RAF Alconbury airfield for homes and commerce.

The firm wants listed building consent to carry out internal an external work on the building, together with the demolition of a later boiler house.

It is expected to be converted for community and office use.

The watch office, an early form of control tower, was built in 1940-41 as the airfield expanded and its uses included briefing aircrew on their missions. It was extended three times before being replaced by another building, which is more recognisable as a control tower, after the airfield was operated by the American air force.

The watch office was of a standard design, with a total of 214 being built, including one at nearby Kimbolton, and many were extended in the same way.

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A heritage statement submitted as part of the planning application said: "The watch office and operations building form a somewhat anomalous remnant of the now largely absent Second World War airfield but, nonetheless, it has a high level of significance and national interest as a rare example of its type.

"The heritage list affirms the building is the best-preserved example of a standard type built for bomber satellite stations during the Second World War."

It added: "Two hundred and fourteen were built in total, though only a handful now survive in varying degrees of completeness, making the Alconbury watch office particularly significant."

At one stage the building had been put forward as a cricket pavilion although this could now be built on another part of the site.

There are a number of listed former military buildings on the airfield, including Cold War structures from the 1980s. which changed the appearance of the base, including the area where the watch office stands.

Urban and Civic acquired the airfield site in 2009.