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The BBC's Steve Humphrey
"In a symbolic gesture bolt croppers were used to open the gate"
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Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Greenham given back to the people
Greenham protest
The Greenham women were a symbol of nuclear protest
The fences are coming down at Greenham Common.

The US airforce base housed cruise missiles in the 1980s and early 1990s, and for 18 years women staged a protest there.

The US air force built huge bunkers
Now, for the first time in 60 years, the public will be allowed to wander round the 1,200-acre site, which has been out-of-bounds since it was taken over by the wartime government of 1941.

The US air force took over the base in the late 1960s. Throughout the '80s, the nuclear protest at Greenham common became the symbol of the anti-nuclear movement in Britain.

Trespassers risked being shot.

Greenham Common
1941- air base
1968- US air force
1980- Cruise Missiles
1982-30,000 women protestors
1991-Missiles removed
But on Saturday the fence was cut down with a ceremonial pair of bolt-cutters to mark it being returned to public space.

West Berkshire Council bought the base in 1997 and the area will now be classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

"The reopening of the commons to the public is a great achievement," said council leader Dr Royce Longton.

Missiles leaving Greenham Common
The last of the missiles left the camp in 1991
"It is symbolic of this council's commitment to preserving the best of our countryside and wildlife habitats to be cherished for generations to come." More than 1m tonnes of concrete were dug up as the former air base's runways were removed, and a huge underground fuel tank has also been taken out.

However, the control tower remains and will be developed as a heritage centre.

The council also plans to buy the three remaining missile silos from the MoD in June next year.

A life-size sculpture of a cruise missile commemorates the base's role in the nuclear age.

Former Greenham protestor Jill Truman, who made numerous trips to the base between 1982 and 1992, told BBC News Online: "I vividly remember the horrible, horrible barbed wire - but also the sense of community. There were no leaders. It was tremendously empowering for women.

"The thought that people can now walk freely there - where the countryside is so beautiful - is a marvellous feeling. It has always been common land after all."

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See also:

29 Nov 99 | Greenham Common
Britain's nuclear arms run down
10 Nov 99 | Greenham Common
The women's peace camp
10 Nov 99 | Greenham Common
Jean Hutchinson: The threat is still with us
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