'Risk of terrorist activity' following 9/11 behind security upgrade at spy base RAF Menwith Hill

The main entrance to RAF Menwith Hill.
The main entrance to RAF Menwith Hill.

The ongoing risk of terrorism has prompted the Ministry of Defence to beef-up security at secretive spy headquarters RAF Menwith Hill.

Documents have been lodged which would see an extensive overhaul of the North Yorkshire military base's main entrance, with the paperwork revealing the upgrade needs to be undertaken in order to meet current security regulations.

Although the clandestine nature of operations at the site are kept infamously quiet by its operators, the documents submitted to Harrogate Borough Council explain the reasoning behind the upgrade.

"Due to the classified nature of the operations at the base, security is a prominent concern. In response to the heightened risk of terrorist activity in the wake of 9/11, security regulations for both UK and US military operations have been tightened considerably," an environmental screening statement says.

The statement adds that although extensive alterations have been undertaken in the past decade to bring the base up to modern regulations, the main entrance doesn't currently meet the security standards required by the US and UK armed forces operating there.

The overhauled main entrance would include a new visitor centre, registration office and gatehouse, as well as new security barriers, roads and car parks. The existing visitor centre would be demolished.

RAF Menwith Hill was established in 1954 to act as a "communication intercept and intelligence support service" for both the United Kingdom and the United States, according to the documents submitted to the council.

Since its establishment, the facility has been occupied by both members of the Royal Air Forces and United States Air Force, most of whom live on site.

The base's operations and location in tranquil North Yorkshire have frequently attracted controversy, with local and national objectors protesting about the nature of work undertaken at the site, as well as the presence of international military personnel.

It's the latest application that has been submitted to Harrogate Borough Council - the local authority charged with deciding planning matters - regarding the base.

In August, the council approved the erection of three new radar shelters at the site.

The permission brings the total number of radomes at the base to 37.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter