Met Office to build 80ft 'golf ball' weather radar after winning appeal

Weather radar tower near Old Buckenham

The Met Office has won an appeal over refusal of a weather radar tower near Old Buckenham - Credit: Mike Page/Met Office

The Met Office has won an appeal against a decision to refuse plans for an 80-foot 'golf ball' radar tower in a small Norfolk village.

The radar tower on Abbey Road in Old Buckenham was rejected by Breckland’s planning committee in May 2021, after facing stiff opposition from residents, parish councils and the local MP.

Tower and weather radar in distinctive 'golf ball' like the one to be built in Norfolk

Tower and weather radar in distinctive 'golf ball' like the one to be built in Norfolk - Credit: Met Office

The national weather service, which currently operates a network of 15 radars across the UK, has now been successful in overturning the council’s planning refusal.

Neighbours had argued the lattice-work metal structure would be an eyesore and that the radar cited inside a ‘golf ball’ structure on top could emit a humming noise that could disturb the rural location. 

Concerns were also raised about the effect of the radar on rare protected species of bats that rely on echolocation — emitting sound signals.

George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk

George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

MP George Freeman told the appeal the tower would be “completely out of character for this very rural part of Norfolk”.

But upholding the Met Office appeal, planning inspector Emma Brownless found the planned structure would not be “overwhelming, dominant or unattractive”.

She said: “Whilst the activity of the radar would operate continuously over each 24-hour period, the emanating noise would be a constant and steady state rather than impulsive and therefore, it will not result in sudden and sharp fluctuations in sound level and would be easier to ignore than impulsive disturbances to the noise climate.”

Location of the proposed weather radar tower on Abbey Road, close to Old Buckenham Airfield. Picture

Location of the weather radar tower on Abbey Road, close to Old Buckenham Airfield - Credit: Google

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Results of surveys suggested that any harm to bats would likely be at a “negligible level”, she added.

Previous plans for a 28.5m high radar tower were withdrawn in March 2020 following concerns raised by Old Buckenham Airfield that the application had not addressed aeronautical and safety concerns.

The planning inspector said: “The height of the proposed radar tower has been reduced to overcome safety concerns and there is no substantive evidence before me that supports the assertion that it would harmfully compromise air safety.”

Entrance to the Anglian Water compound on Abbey Road, Old Buckenham, where the Met Office weather ra

Entrance to the Anglian Water compound on Abbey Road, Old Buckenham, where the Met Office weather radar will be sited - Credit: Met Office

The Met Office said construction of the new radar station will take about six months. 

“Improved radar coverage is vitally important if we are to provide better, more detailed observations of rainfall and improve the lead-time of warnings for significant weather and potential flooding,” it said.