The RAF has closed down one of its most important communication stations in the North Atlantic because it is rusting away.

Airmen manning the 600ft mast at Aird Uig on the Isle of Lewis previously have had to abandon the cliff-top station in bad weather because of fears of the giant antennae collapsing.

The station is a vital communications link for aircraft in the North Atlantic and was a key part in Cold War defences. It has also been at the centre of local health fears over the risk of non-ionising radiation generated by the hi-tech equipment.

But now the RAF has admitted it has turned-off its transmitters because parts of the mast are corroding.

Now it will not be until at least the middle of next year before the station is operational again.

The decision was revealed in a letter to a local resident from Squadron Leader Peter Copeland of the Headquarters Logistics Command based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

He assured residents that a survey of the radiation risk will also be carried out when the station is switched on again, but denied there has been any previous threat to health.

A spokesman for the RAF said that the communications gap caused by the closure would be taken-up by other stations.

Earlier this year residents also complained that powerful aircraft warning lights on the mast were lighting-up their homes all night, making it impossible to sleep. The RAF later installed dimmer lights.

Also earlier this year the RAF closed its base at Stornoway on the island, but the cliff top transmitting station was kept open, manned by 81 Signals Unit at RAF Kinloss.

The station was set-up in 1954 and once had 170 men based there, but today only a couple permanently man it.

The MoD has admitted it is considering options, which could involve either continuation with the military staying in six-month tours of duty on site, closure, re-location, or tendering out the work to civilian organisations.

It is believed the MoD has already had talks with the Civil Aviation Authority over maintaining the station.