Displacement of the Trimingham golf ball radar due to erosion of the Norfolk coast

Published:
06:15 July 6, 2022



The distinctive ‘golf ball’ radar station on the North Norfolk coast will be moved to a new inland site over the next year as military leaders fear it will fall overboard.

Concerns over a potential cliff collapse at Trimingham mean the Ministry of Defense (MoD) will pack up the system there and move it to a new home eight miles from the coast at Neatishead, which previously housed a major radar base.


The dome containing the radar at Trimingham
– Credit: Archant

The move is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

The Trimingham site, run by the RAF, is a vital part of the UK’s air defense system, giving early warning of any air threats approaching the UK.

Its importance has grown in recent months as tensions with Russia have increased following its invasion of Ukraine.

But the radar – which has become a familiar regional landmark – sits on one of the stretches of coastline most vulnerable to erosion.

In 2020 a cliff collapse saw tons of sand and silt crash onto the beach and sea from Trimingham House Caravan Park – less than a mile from the resort, officially known as Remote Radar Head Trimingham.

Although the decision to remove the structure was primarily due to the threat of coastal erosion, military experts also fear that the station will face increasing interference from the increasing number of wind turbines off the Norfolk coast, which which makes it more difficult to identify potential threats.


A drone image of the cliff fall at Trimingham

A drone image of the cliff fall at Trimingham, taken on January 7, 2020.
– Credit: BlueSky UAV Specialists

In 2017 the Ministry of Defense warned that new wind turbines at Swedish company Vattenfall’s Boreas wind farm off Norfolk would have a “significant and detrimental” impact on Remote Radar Head Trimingham.

MoD operators use the radar to create what they call a “recognized aerial picture” of aircraft movements so they can defend the country.

And they say offshore turbines can “cause unacceptable and unmanageable interference to the effective operation of this air defense radar”.

The MoD says the turbines create “clutter” on operators’ screens.


Scroby Wind Farm

MOD says mitigation measures are needed to prevent wind farms from interfering with radar
– Credit: Mike Page

The move to Neatishead – where the MoD already owns land – will not solve this problem, as the radar will still be in the line of sight of the Boreas turbines.

Military experts tried to find ways to reduce interference from the wind farm.


The remote radar base at Neatishead

Neatishead Remote Radar Base will be the new home of Trimingham Radar
– Credit: Archant

In the past, defense chiefs have found ways to mitigate the negative impact of turbines, striking deals with developers.

Examples of mitigation include “masked” radar returns from turbines, so that they do not appear on operators’ screens, and the provision of additional radars to “fill in” missing information from these areas.

But experts say the next generation of wind farms will be bigger, both in height and area, so the methods used previously won’t be enough.

The government, the Ministry of Defense and the wind farm companies have been working to find solutions to this problem.

A series of “real life” tests of different types of radars were carried out, with different types of aircraft flying close to wind farm areas.

A MoD spokesperson said: “Wind farms support the UK’s clean energy ambition and we are committed to working across government and with industry to mitigate any impact of traffic enforcement. air and defense radars.”

Dujon Goncalves-Collins, Vattenfall’s Senior Strategic Advisor for Aviation, Defense and Radar, said: “Vattenfall is working closely with the Ministry of Defense to ensure that the new radar station at Neatishead will not be affected by Norfolk Boreas operations.

Vattenfall is also behind the Vanguard wind farm, while other major wind projects include Erinor’s plans to double the size of the Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon projects. The Danish company Ørsted is also working on the development of Hornsea Three.

THE RADAR ROLE OF NORFOLK


Trimingham Radar Station

Coastal erosion means Trimingham Radar will be moved
– Credit: Archant

A radar station was first established at Trimingham by the British Army in 1941 to detect German powerboats and low-flying aircraft during World War II.

It was transferred to the Air Ministry in 1942, but ceased to be used in 1948.

However, it was reactivated a year later and RAF Trimingham saw various radars installed in the following years.

It was mothballed in 1964 and then largely dismantled before closing in 1981.

But then the MoD bought it a few years later, and the “golf ball” dome surrounding the radar equipment was installed.

Various radars – including one that once stood at a now closed military base in Hopton – were housed there.

In 2006, an investigation was carried out after drivers reported that their cars suffered electrical problems when passing the dome.

The MoD confirmed that problems had been caused by his equipment.

The impending move to Neatishead gives new purpose to a site that functioned as a radar center during the Second World War.

In the 1960s, the base was engulfed in tragedy when a fire broke out at the site, killing three local firefighters.

The station remained closed for eight years and reopened in 1974, after extensive reconstruction work.

In 2006 it was downgraded to Remote Radar Head status as the RAF sold much of the site, which also includes a radar museum.

Michael C. Ford