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Bletchley Park was almost turned into commuter homes

Almost demolished for tract houses
Tue Dec 04 2012, 11:32
The main house at Bletchley Park

UK CODE BREAKING SITE Bletchley Park was nearly lost 21 years ago when someone thought it would make a better housing estate than national heritage museum.

In 1991 Bletchley Park was worth over £3m, was located near the railway station and was on acres of land. What better to do with it then than raze it to the ground and cover it with a supermarket and hundreds of homes?

Peter Wescombe, who had worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Diplomatic Wireless Service department, was not keen on this, though, and kicked off a campaign to save the park. No easy task.

"You've got 55 acres of ground here, right by the railway station. People could get out of bed, brush their teeth and be straight on a train to London, without any need for parking," he says in a report on the park's website.

"They would have their own supermarket and petrol station. It was a very valuable site indeed. With planning permission, it was worth an estimated £3m at the time."

Wescombe set in motion a campaign to keep the site alive, and managed to get the people that used to work there onside, the actual code breakers.

After that it was a question of getting the money and the backing to keep the park as a heritage site. Some trees put the development plans on hold because they are from the 1880s and had protection orders, and within three years, three years of hard work, the park was opened to visitors. By 2011 around 140,000 visitors a year were going through its gates.

"Thank you very much to all those people who supported us and got us through. We'd sit there in The House (as the rain poured in through the roof) and say, 'Now what are we going to do; another financial problem, how are we going to manage this one?'" added Wescombe.

"Our fellow volunteers, and later, the staff, would say, 'It doesn't matter - the tours are going out, let's get the tours out - keep going.' It was their enthusiasm that saw us through."

"We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the thousands of volunteers and enthusiasts who not only saved Bletchley Park from the bulldozers but kept it going through difficult financial times, and helped turn it into the success story it is today; a thriving heritage site and education centre which celebrates the achievements of the World War Two Codebreakers and is about to embark on a development plan to turn it into a world-class visitor experience," added Iain Standen, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust. µ


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