Police plan to upgrade training facilities at historic Kingstanding site

Plans have been submitted to upgrade buildings at Kingstanding on the Ashdown Forest, once the site of the world’s biggest and most powerful transmitter, and now a police training facility.sussex-police-logo

A ‘town centre’ used for public order training and existing buildings are to be refurbished and upgraded to better suit training requirements.

The former transmitter hall building, known as The Cinema because of its architectural design, is to be used as a central hub for the site, including training rooms, a canteen and toilet and changing facilities.

A statement of historical significance, submitted with the planning application, says the latest proposals seek to “ensure historically important elements of the fabric and structure are preserved and enhanced”.

‘The Cinema’

‘The Cinema’ was listed in 2007 because of its design and because it was a “remarkable intact and unaltered building, through which one can understand its function as an early transmitter hall.

“A building which combines historic and architectural interest as an exemplar of the nationally important work of the former Kings Standing radio communications and transmitter station to national security”.

It was Winston Churchill who approved plans for a station transmitter – known as Aspidistra – at Kingstanding, Duddleswell, in 1941, according to the statement.

High-power transmitter

The high-power medium wave broadcasting transmitter was used by the BBC to broadcast ‘black propaganda’ to Germany after being developed in 1941-42 under the control of the Political Warfare Executive, a branch of the British Intelligence Service.

From 1943 the station was also used by the Foreign Office Diplomatic wireless service and after the war the site continued to be used by the service, and by the BBC which continued to broadcast its world service to Europe.

But in 1984 the station was dismantled and the site was bought by the Home Office to be used as Regional Government Headquarters to serve Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Training facility

Sussex Police have used parts of the site since 1988, initially as a store for vehicles used in crime and for public order training. They bought it as a training facility in 1996.

The statement of historical significance concludes that the proposals will preserve the building for future generations and without the works the building could deteriorate further.

“We believe the proposals strike the right balance between minor intrusive works and the benefit of continued use of the building, which justifies the repair works that are necessary.”

Containers

Other works at the site include adding six new 20 foot containers, each to have two doors and one window opening cut into them.  The containers will be moved around the site to suit various training exercises.

If the plans are approved by Wealden Council there will also be a new road between two buildings (numbers five and seven), with new high metal gates at one end; new kerbs and pavements, and 11 new lamp posts.

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