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History: Broughton Moor arms depot
Broughton Moor
Around 300 buildings are dotted across the 1050 acre site.

Hotels and leisure facilities could soon replace a vast patchwork of disused land and tumbledown arms stores at Broughton Moor in West Cumbria.

The 1,050 acre (425 hectare) area near Maryport is one of the largest brown field sites in the north west.

Two firms have been shortlisted to develop the land, and Allerdale Council will make a decision on the winner in February.

Whichever one is chosen, the history of Broughton Moor will take another twist.

For centuries the land around Broughton Moor had been used for a mixture of farming and mining.

Broughton Moor Timeline
1873 - Buckhill Colliery opens - railway developed and coal extracted
1932 - Buckhill Colliery closes
1938/9 - Royal Naval Armaments depot built on 800 acre site
1944 - Explosion kills 11 people and injures 70
1963-1977 - Federal Republic of Germany takes up tenancy
1977-1981 - US forces use site to store munitions
1981 - Depot formally adopted as a Nato site
1992 - Depot closes on 31 December
2008 - Site bought by Allerdale Borough Council and Cumbria County Council for £1
2011 - Two companies shortlisted for developing the site

There was some small-scale coal mining before 1873 but after that date the land was mined much more heavily by the Buckhill Colliery. Around 1925 a smallpox hospital was recorded in northwest area of the site.

Then in 1938 work began turning 800 acres (about four fifths of the full expanse) into a Royal Navy Armaments Depot. It was finished in 1939 and the site extended to its current size by 1944.

Asbestos contamination

In January 1944 official sources report a 'serious explosive incident' in which 11 people died and another 70 were injured. The area affected was cleared and damaged buildings redeveloped.

It was used to store various Ministry of Defence weapons until 1963 when it was leased to the Federal Republic of Germany - or West Germany - which used it to store explosive mines. For four years in the late 1970s the United States used it, before it was adopted by Nato in 1981.

A vast and varied landscape, the Broughton Moor depot is a hotch-potch of woodland, moor, derelict buildings, slag heaps and roadways. A spoil heap from Buckhill Colliery still rises in the centre of the site.

There are 300 odd buildings across the site - in various states of disrepair - as well as a car park, roads and even a helicopter landing pad.

Smashed windows
Asbestos has been found in some of the buildings in the past.

The remains of a railway used to transport coal away from the colliery can be detected - but have largely been destroyed.

Since closing the land has developed into an important habitat for wildlife. In 2008, David Martin from Allerdale Borough Council said: "The site has been derelict for 16 years, and completely fenced in for 70, which means a rare wildlife environment has developed."

In 1992 the site was finally closed and the long running saga of redevelopment began.

Only miles from the Lake District National Park, local councillors quickly realised the potential the site had.

Future plans

So started the process of buying the land from the Ministry of Defence - made more complicated by asbestos contamination and other safety risks.

But in 2008 Allerdale Borough Council and Cumbria County Council finally bought the site for the princely sum of £1.

Broughton Moor
Allerdale Borough Council and Cumbria County Council bought the site for 1.

Since the purchase Allerdale Borough Council has been spearheading efforts to attract developers to Broughton Moor. Ideas put forward have ranged from a nature reserve to a theme park or open cast mine.

The possibility that coal or mineral mines could once again be opened there prompted fierce opposition in the nearby villages of Camerton and Great Broughton.

After various expressions of interest Allerdale narrowed the bidders down to a shortlist of two - Derwent Forest Developments and ESH Developments have put forward projects which include new homes, hotels and leisure facilities.

Allerdale and Cumbria County Councils are due to decide on a developer by the end of February.

Both companies have ruled out any opencast mining at the site, which came as a relief to nearby villagers.

Arms dump site plans considered
13 Jan 11 |  Cumbria
Mining plan for former arms dump
12 May 10 |  Cumbria
Former arms depot is sold for 1
22 Aug 08 |  Cumbria

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