Battle for planning application to turn ex-RAF base into homes and museum is victorious
Home to Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding’s Fighter Command in the summer of 1940, Bentley Priory is to be given a fresh lease of life after local councillors approved a planning application for the project just a few days ago. The Grade II* listed mansion house is often referred to as the ‘Home of The Few’, after it housed the heroic Battle of Britain pilots during the Second World War.
Conditional detailed planning and listed building consent given by Harrow Council in summer 2008 had to be reissued having expired over the last few years, however residential specialist Barratt Developments is now preparing to start construction on 103 new homes on the 23 hectare site. Several of Bentley Priory’s most historic rooms will also be adapted into a museum by building specialists City and Country, dedicated to the memory of those who served their country in the Battle of Britain. The firm will also convert certain areas of the 17th Century property into eight individual flats.
Speaking after Harrow Council gave the project the green light, Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge, Chairman of the RAF Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, said: “This represents the culmination of five year’s hard work to ensure that the priory and all that it stands for in our history has a sustainable future as a museum and centre for education about the people, technology and leadership that bought us victory in the Battle of Britain, arguably the most pivotal battle of World War Two. There is now much work to do in fundraising and Churchill would have recognised that for the Trust, ‘this is not the beginning of the end, merely the end of the beginning’.”
The first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, the infamous Battle of Britain in the summer and autumn of 1940 has been widely recognised as one of the turning points of the Second World War and the pilots who fought in it immortalised in British history. It is thought that had the British Air Force failed, Adolf Hitler would have launched Operation Sea Lion – an invasive airborne attack which may have changed the outcome of World War Two.
As Harrow Council leader Councillor Bill Stephenson explains: "This historic decision will mean the spiritual Home of The Few is preserved for all. We must never forget the courage and sacrifice of the RAF pilots and ground staff during the Battle of Britain. The future of the site is now secure and there will be a permanent reminder of Stanmore’s place in British history.”