View Full Version : It's a control tower guv... Honestly!!

Grob Driver
12th Jan 2003, 16:40
I have a question… Can anyone tell me a legal definition of a control tower! I.e., what does it have to do? Does a control tower have to have full 2 way coms, or can it be purely an ‘observation’ post? Also, can a private individual ‘own’ a control tower and use it…?

Ok, what I’m getting at here is actually a planning issue! I fancy buying an old control tower and turning it into a house! But this raises more planning issues than you can imagine. So, what do I have to do, to restore a derelict control tower, back into a restored control tower (with a bed!)? I’m just seeing if there is any way around the planning issues!

Grob Driver

12th Jan 2003, 17:09

I think the only thing you have to do is to get a change of use.

But while that may be the only thing it is also the most difficult thing to obtain, depending of course on the location of your project.

There are (AFAIK) no rules for towers other than at controlled fields.

Novel idea.

Good luck


Spot 4
12th Jan 2003, 21:32
Before flying for a living, I worked in ATC. Each had beds for the overnight watch, and a kitchen, toilet, TV etc, etc.

Not much was absent from it being home from home.


12th Jan 2003, 22:46
Spots right, a lot of old control towers seem to have become listed buildings due to the heritage of the area or the airfield they're on.
This automatically requires the owner/occupier to maintain the buliding to its original standard, which in some cases can mean spending considerable amounts of doshh on them.
If you need putting off any further, most wartime towers were built in such a manner that today, they would also be very expensive to run in terms of heating and lighting, as well as the initial cost of making them habitable to the leagl requirements of housing legislation.
Now all you have to do is find one!

Grob Driver
12th Jan 2003, 23:39
You’re right there…. It will take a lot of time, effort and more importantly…. MONEY, to bring it up to the current regulations for housing. That’s why I was wondering if it was possible to return it back to a control tower rather than a private dwelling. As for finding one… I’ve already done that. It’s in a poor state of repair at the moment but has a lot of potential. The farmer is willing to sell it too although he’s yet to give me a final price!

I’ve checked with the planners, and it’s NOT a listed building! Surprised me too but there you go. Niknak, is there anything specific that will make it expensive to heat and light, of is it just because of the overall size of the place (it’s a lot bigger inside than I first expected!).

Also, did each room have a specific use or did that depend on the airfield in question…. The tower is Watch Office for Night Fighter Stations 12096/41, with additional control room 10413/42. Does anyone know where I can get a plan for a tower like this that would say what each room was used for?

Thanks for all your help

Grob Driver

Spot 4
13th Jan 2003, 06:41
Another worry that i would have it regarding the levels of asbestos usually found in wartime buildings. There is a book Aviation Architecture that may give some info. Most towers have developed over the years, the visual control room usually started on the second floor until shacks and ultimately extensions were built on the roof (third floor). A good preserved example is at Mona on Anglesey, but i do not know if that is the spec you want.

They never were designed with energy efficiency in mind, yet i vaguely remember reading in an olf flypast magazine of someone in east anglia doing such a conversion before, sadly cannot recall exactly were.

13th Jan 2003, 08:28
Two possible leads for you:

1. Speak to the people at Twinwoods who have restored a derelict tower to excellent standards. It IS cold in there despite new radiators, but they have kept the original windows - double glazing would be a must for making it a house. Link: http://www.twinwoodevents.com/

Twinwoods is signposted off the road just North of Clapham, itself North of Bedford. Coming from the North you'll need to come off the A6 before the new bypass section, following signs to Clapham.

2. Somebody converted the RAF Podington control tower to a home, and it looks pretty damn good. Not far from Twinwoods so you could visit both on the same trip.

Podington is best found by following signs for Santa Pod raceway, you'll see these further North on the A6 between Rushden and Clapham. The lane down to the raceway passes a memorial, then a riding centre on the left. Keep going past the main entrance for the raceway and the control tower will soon appear in front of you. Sorry, don't have any contact details for the owner.

Spiney Norman
13th Jan 2003, 08:32
Hi Grob driver.
You may find this web page useful. It also includes contact details for someone who has done alot of work on a 12096/41 model watch tower and may be able to offer info. I should say that I don't know him, just found the info.



Grob Driver
13th Jan 2003, 08:41

THANK YOU… That’s very useful…. Especially then one at Podington… I’ve just looked on a web site ( http://www.controltowers.co.uk/P/Podington.htm ). The people at Podington have done a very nice job (as have Tinwoods farm). I’m going to contact them both and see if I can arrange a visit down there! Would be interesting to talk to the people at Podington though because they will have had to deal thing the planning issues for conversion to a dwelling… Would be good to know what issues they came up against!


Grob Driver

Spiney Norman
13th Jan 2003, 08:42
D'oh..Damien B just beat me to it! I'd also guess that the RAF Museum would be able to help to get hold of original building plans for the model of Watch office and extension you're after. Have you tried dropping them an email?


13th Jan 2003, 09:57
Look at http://www.controltowers.co.uk/W-Z/Zeals.htm for pictures of one wartime tower that is now a house. I'm not sure when the conversion was done but it was certainly prior to 1989 when I first saw it.

The Club house at Sturgate is also a "tower conversion"

I'm sure that there must be others.

Grob Driver
13th Jan 2003, 10:35
Spiney Norman… Thanks to you too! You’re right, Damien beat you to it… But thanks anyway! Hadn’t thought about the RAF Museum though… I’ll drop them a line and see what they have to say!

Flap 40… I’ve seen Sturgate’s tower (I fly from there!)… The thing is that is still a control tower, and it’s on an active airfield so I don’t think they would have had the same planning issues that I’m going to be facing. Still, I’ll have a chat with the guys down there next time I’m at the clubhouse and see if anyone knows anymore!

13th Jan 2003, 11:47
Looking further into that website I see that there are also house conversions at Gamston. Lavenham and Warmwell.

Spiney Norman
13th Jan 2003, 11:51
Re the tower at Podington. The only thing that might be important here is that it has been used as a residence for some considerable time. I'm pretty sure it was converted in the 1970's. That might well have put it outside the main body of 'listings'. If you're interested in what the particular rooms were used for I would suggest a visit to East Kirkby. The Licolnshire Aviation Heritage site. The tower there is, I believe, a 12779/41. However, it has been excellently restored with all the rooms restored to their original use with appropriate equipment installed. Although East Kirkby was a bomber field I'm sure there are quite a lot of parallels. A basic rule seemed to be that Met operated from the ground floor and ATC/Ops from the first. East Kirkby used to allow fly-in visitors but I believe this is no longer the case. Being a Sturgate resident you've probably been already.


Grob Driver
13th Jan 2003, 13:39
The one at Lavenham is identical to the tower that I’m looking at although the one I’m referring to (Colby Grange!) has an additional watch tower on top! http://www.controltowers.co.uk/C/ColebyGrange.htm

Believe it on not, I’ve never been to East Kirkby… Something that I’ve been meaning to de, but never got around to it… Still, I know where I’ll be going this weekend…. Digital camera in hand! I’m learning more about this every hour! Thanks guys…. Met from the bottom…. Ops from up top!

Grob Driver
23rd Jan 2003, 23:04
Ok Guys, following on with this theme, if a control tower has to be on an active airfield, can I put a helipad in the grounds and class it as an airfield? If there is some way of restoring this tower back to a control tower, rather than dwelling, it will save me a lot of trouble! Would I need planning permission to return it back to an airfield and if so, can I get around it by using the 30 day rule? Anyone got any views on this?

grob Driver
:p :p :p

24th Jan 2003, 00:10
Noted today: Toome airfield in Northern Ireland, Control Tower is now a residence. Cannot provide an address for contact, but "Old ATC Tower, Toome" may mean a link with someone who has been there. If it wasnt for the flat roof, it would look quite good.

John (Gary) Cooper
24th Jan 2003, 14:47
Martlesham Heath Aviation Society situated in the old Control Tower (Nr Ipswich) have their own web site at www.mhas.org.uk/ and on the upper story the whole floor has been turned into an excellent aviation museum, on the ground floor there is some form of kindergarten. The museum was restored and opened a couple of years ago with Lady Bader in attendance and have an annual 'fly by' each September. If you go to the web site for info Bob Dunnett is your contact, I am sure he will pass on some very useful advice. Best of luck in your venture............. :)

2nd Aug 2003, 16:46
Just to get back to this thread, I notice that the tower at Fearn is for sale.


John (Gary) Cooper
3rd Aug 2003, 01:50
Check out the following on HMS Hummingbird at Zeals near Stourhead, I visited the park two weeks ago and I just happened to be talking to the car park attendant who was very knowledgeable re the nearby airfield, the control tower is now a rather swish house and there is a photo at:


3rd Aug 2003, 03:35
Beat you to it John!:O :O

(See my post above from 13th Jan)