If you asked someone how a cold war radar station, a state-of-the-art robotic telescope and a popular restaurant were connected, they might well scratch their head for a while.
It may sound like the beginning of a thriller, but it’s actually an intriguing demonstration of the way that land remediation can change historic land use and bring a site back into use by the community.
Enterprising islanders purchase the site
During the cold war, the RAF ran a radar base in Aird, Uig, on the Isle of Lewis. It was an early warning station to predict a Russian attack on the UK. The site became disused after the end of the cold war, and enterprising islanders set up the Gallan Head Community Trust and bought it from the Ministry of Defence.
The Trust has now opened this beautiful landscape to the public, who have not had access to the site since 1951. It has also raised money to carry out land remediation work. Land remediation takes place when a site that has been used for a specific purpose may need work to bring it back to safe and sustainable public use.
Land remediation services
Sites such as this often require land remediation services, with experts assessing the risks that the site poses. For example, with Aird, the Trust had to ensure that the land was safe for the public to access. Remediation consultants generally carry out multiple surveys on the site, to check for a range of problems, such as contamination, instability in the soil structure, or problems with groundwater. They set out all the risks they find, then develop a plan for the site, to fix any problems that have arisen and to enable the site to come back into use for whatever purpose is planned.
As well as other money it raised, the Gallan Trust received a grant of £5,000 from the Scottish Landfills Community Fund to help fund improvements to the land, and The Woodland Trust donated 420 trees for landscaping the area.
The Trust has already opened a successful restaurant and visitor centre, and now the main focus is on creating an observatory with a robotic telescope. It’s another demonstration of the way that land use can successfully be changed, with the right expert help and an active community.