Seven-year search for buyer of a iconic Scots ‘golf ball’ spy landmark may be over

IT IS the former Nato spy base known locally as Scotland’s giant ‘golf ball’ that was built to withstand nuclear, biological and chemical attack.

But the distinctive decommissioned spy base in Kinross-shire opened by Princess Anne has been off and on the market for some seven years – as agents desperately seek a buyer.

In 2016 there had been worries that the Perthshire landmark, close to the former T in the Park site, may be becoming something of a “white elephant” as it has failed to find a taker for two years.

Another years on and the former military base is still available, has been re-marketed at a cut price £650,000 – and now it just might be snapped up.

In 2014 the familiar landmark to motorists driving along the M90 motorway between Edinburgh and Perth was available for £1.1m.

The refashioned 6.12 acre site still features the iconic golf-ball shaped Balado Satellite Ground Station and houses a now inactive NATO Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) early warning radar.

New buyers would be able to benefit from the property’s high level of security as the entire compound is surrounded by burglar-proof double layered security fencing.

Amazing Results estate agents, who are marketing the property, say there have been “many, many interested parties” since 2016 but no firm offers have yet made it through to conclusion of missives.

“However, we currently have two serious, qualified interested parties who are finalising their due diligence regarding planning and financing and we fully anticipate that one of these potential purchasers will proceed to conclude a deal on the whole site in the next few weeks,” said a spokesman.

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They say the site, is the “ideal location for commuting throughout central Scotland”.

And they add: “Expect to be impressed! It is not your average commercial opportunity.”

The station has been in the past six months been the target of two break-ins.

Two men were arrested after a break-in at the former NATO satellite after allegedly breaking in, with one found hiding within one of the buildings at the site.

A break-in January saw raiders cut 11,000-volt cables, with police estimating that thousands of pounds of damage was caused.

The entire nine acre plot combined had been on sale for offers over £950,000 but has now been reduced in size in new marketing.

An agreement to sell the original nine-acre site featuring the 60ft spherical structure had been made in principal to a Dutch firm, who were going to use it as a data-storage base after it was first put on the market in 2014.

But agents said that the sale was subject to getting grants and after 12 months of waiting, it was decided to remarket.

Featuring a guardhouse built by the Ministry of Defence during the Second World War, the site set admist gently rolling hills it has been marketed as “the perfect location for a residential, commercial or leisure development” set at the “gateway to the Highlands”.

The brick-built main equipment building comes complete with an emergency power generator room alongside the accommodation block, which housed the station mess, recreation and office facilities.

It is connected to the 60ft white fibreglass golf ball – actually a radome housing a large dish antenna – by a corridor and doors built to withstand nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

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An impenetrable steel shield running through its walls ensured that any electronic systems used inside could not be monitored by outside sources.

RAF Balado Bridge opened in 1942 and operated as an airfield during the Second World War, where Polish pilots trained on Hurricanes and Spitfires. before eventually becoming an aircraft breakers yard.

Following decommissioning, part of the site became a Nato eavesdropping post known as a SATCOM II Satellite Ground Listening Station.

The dome’s design was originally conceived by Walther Bauersfeld, chief engineer of the Carl Zeiss optical company, for a planetarium to house his planetarium projector in Germany after the First World War.

American architect R Buckminster Fuller adapted it to deal with a chronic housing shortage in the US in 1944, renamed it the “geodesic dome” and patented it in 1954.

The decommissioned fibreglass structure was once linked to the command centre at Pitreavie, Fife, by microwave transmitter, though these functions were transferred to Faslane on the Clyde in the mid-1990s.

The golf ball housed a large-dish rotating antenna that was once used to pick up messages from aircraft.

The radome was opened by Princess Anne in 1985 and was used to intercept satellite communications – Russian ballistic missile launch orders, for example – for over 20 years.

Soldiers from the Royal Corps of Signals manned the “golf ball” until 2006, with support provided by Edinburgh-based 242 Signal Squadron after it was opened as a Nato operation in 1985.

After it was decommissioned as a military listening post in 2006 it was bought by entrepreneur Bob Ferguson for just over £500,000. He did not develop the golf ball.

The annual T In The Park music festival was held on the airfield between 1997 and 2014, when it ended due to reported concerns about an underground pipeline.

Suggestions previously made for future use have included the creation of Kinross’s Eden Project to a golf academy and driving range.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992