Both commons have a long history with ownership changing many times. However from 1941 to 1997 was a time of a great many changes with the Government twice taking control of large areas for defence purposes. In 1981 a group of women marched from Cardiff and set up camp outside the airbase to protest at the construction of nuclear missile silos. Over a period these "Peace Women", together with many visiting supporters, took several direct protest actions including invading the base on the grounds that it was illegally constructed. They held that their action was supported on the basis that it infringed commoners' rights of access to carry out their rights. To counter this the Ministry of Defence extinguished those rights on Greenham Common (but not Crookham Common) on the land in their possession, offering £1,000 compensation to every commoner involved. Only two commoners refused to accept this offer.
The political scene changed when the I.N.F.Treaty of 1987 was signed and in 1993 it was announced in Parliament that "the former Greenham Airbase was surplus to military requirements." There was much disquiet locally as it was known that the Government would be selling the Base and the commons in their ownership. The then Newbury District Council wanted to purchase both commons but could not meet the price expected. However a group of local wealthy business men headed by Sir Peter Michael got together with the Council to make a proposal to form a trust to purchase the commons. A European grant was obtained so that this trust could create a company to convert the base Administrative Area into a commercial park. The profits would pass to the trust to distribute for the benefit of local good causes. All land outside of the Administrative area would be sold to the Council. This was successful in 1995 and West Berkshire Council, the successor to Newbury District, bought the commons from the Greenham Common Trust for one pound. New Greenham Park opened in 1997.
From this date on West Berkshire Council had approximately 500Ha. of open heathland and woods with contaminated ground and military relics to restore and manage. The situation of commoners' rights was confused and required regularizing. Grazing was to be reintroduced and an enclosing fenceline defined over the greater area of Greenham Common and much of Crookham Common. A formal framework was needed which would establish the common land status and enable these and future works to be instituted with safeguards to the public. This was the initial reason for seeking an Act of Parliament to establish the protection of the commons and commoners' rights.
From the 1st January 2014 West Berkshire Council passed the management of Greenham and Crookhams to the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) under a 50 year lease that comes under review every 10 years. BBOWT are responsible for looking after the Commns on behalf of West Berkshire Council.
Find out more about BBOWT at www.bbowt.org .uk
For further information on the commons go to www.greenham-common.org.uk.
For further information on the Womens' peace camp go to www.greenhamwpc.org.uk.
For further information on Greenham Common Trust go to www.greenham-common-trust.co.uk.
For further information on Greenham Business Park go to www.greenham-business-park.co.uk.
An historical precis of events can be seen in www.westberks.gov.uk and search for "Timeline".
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& Crookham Commons Commission, unless otherwise credited.
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