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Geoenvironmental factors in the regeneration of military airfields in Great Britain

By
Ronald N.E. Blake
Ronald N.E. Blake
Faculty of Construction and the Environment, The Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, United Kingdom
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Published:
January 01, 2001

Abstract

Britain is littered with active and disused military airfields, arguably the most distinctive feature of its twentieth-century defenses. More than 850 airfields were active during World War II, covering about 162000 hectares or 0.7% of the national land area. Today, fewer than 50 remain active, the majority having been transferred to ground defense roles, civil flying, agriculture, and other land uses.

There is a strong spatial association between the leading air bases and well-drained Middle Jurassic limestone, Upper Cretaceous chalk, and Quaternary fluvioglacial sands and gravels. Peacetime consolidation at a dwindling number of key bases has intensified impacts on these permeable lithologies, which are vulnerable to groundwater contamination, soil degradation, and erosion of landscapes rich in ecological and archaeological heritage.

Demolition for agriculture has been uncoordinated and incomplete. Alternative uses include laboratories, prisons, and motor racing, many introduced without environmental controls. Asset stripping of valuable infrastructure has become a public issue since the ending of the Cold War.

Disused airfields are now the foci of comprehensive regeneration schemes. Options include mineral extraction, afforestation, new towns, and runway conversion to airports. Decision making involves careful assessment of geological resources, geologic hazards, and available remediation technologies within the framework of a systematic environmental audit.

Britain’s “airfield problem” is the unique product of a densely settled countryside, a rich aeronautical history, and an imperfect planning system. Experience gained trying to solve this problem has many international applications.

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Contents

GSA Reviews in Engineering Geology

The Environmental Legacy of Military Operations

Judy Ehlen
Judy Ehlen
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, 7701 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, Virginia 22315-3864, USA
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Russell S. Harmon
Russell S. Harmon
U.S. Army Research Office, P.O. Box 12211, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709-2211, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
14
ISBN electronic:
9780813758145
Publication date:
January 01, 2001

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