Making history – from cold war to doc store

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A former Royal Air Force bomber station is now home to Supporta Professional Services’ 9,200 sq ft storage site in Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire.

Linpac Storage Solutions was chosen to install a storage unit to house Supporta’s clients’ confidential archive documents, and in doing so, boosted storage capacity by 12 per cent.

The project was an unusual one considering the history of the building. Upper Heyford was established as a Royal Fighter Command aerodrome in 1915. The site then became an RAF bomber station in the 1920s and 30s. Not long after World War II, the US Air Force (USAF) leased the air base from the Ministry of Defence as part of NATO alliance. By the mid-1970s the F-111E, Aardvark fighter bombers were stationed there and 56 bomb-proof shelters were built to house the planes.

The USAF closed its operation in 1994, at which time the site was returned to the MoD. Following a period of uncertainty when various usage options were considered, the site has been turned over to commercial enterprise.

Michael Watts, head of operations for Supporta Professional Services, says: “We wanted a secure facility to house the confidential archive documents of our clients and these Cold War aircraft shelters seemed ideal.

“There were a number of obstacles to overcome, not least the fact that these structures have significant historical value. As a consequence, we have worked closely with English Heritage to preserve the integrity of the unit, while transforming it into a high security archive for our clients’ storage of documents.”

The company increased the storage capacity from 59,000 to 66,000 standard boxes (41.0 x 35.0 x 26.5cm) – a 12 per cent improvement.

“While we weren’t allowed to remove the original lights, we have been able to install bright modern lighting and air conditioning to maintain a constant temperature and humidity in the building. This is important to preserve the condition of our clients’ material.

“The boxes are stored in a three-tier shelving system. It is serviced by two pallet gates at the front of the structure which enable the fork lift truck to deliver bulk loads to the first and second levels.”

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