Express & Star

Former Cold War bunker beneath isolated farmland could become holiday destination

A former Cold War monitoring bunker could be redeveloped as a quirky holiday destination under new plans before a council.

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The Tenbury Wells Royal Observer Corps(ROC) monitoring station lies underneath an isolated spot of farmland in the hills near Burford, and was last used for its intended purpose of monitoring the potential nuclear threat from the former Soviet Union in the 1960s.

Now, the landowners have applied to build a subterranean extension to the tiny concrete bunker, which can currently only be accessed via a concrete hatch and metal ladder, to allow it to be used as holiday accommodation.

The scheme is a resubmission of an earlier plan for the site, which was thrown out by council planners in 2021 due to its effect on the building, classed by Shropshire Council as a non-designated heritage asset. The structure was granted a certificate of lawful use as holiday accommodation in 2016.

The station formed part of a huge monitoring network of underground stations covering the country, intended to provide survivors of a nuclear strike with information about radiation levels above ground.

The bunker is one of only a handful of surviving examples in the UK, with most returned to landowners or filled in after the ROC was officially stood down in 1992.

The former Cold War bunker. Picture: Google

The scheme to develop the site would see the east elevation of the structure partially excavated and a more user-friendly doorway fitted to allow holiday-makers to access the structure without shimmying down the 14ft ladder. A kitchen and bathroom facilities would be added to the proposed five-metre underground extension, with glazing installed over the original entry hatch.

“During their ownership, the applicants have done their best to maintain the monitoring station and preserve it for future generations, and that it remains is testament to their efforts, so many other stations having been lost,” said a supporting statement filed with the application.

“However by the very nature of its design, this is becoming less feasible as time moves on. The only access is via a steel ladder down the vertical access shaft and this is no longer safe nor practical.

“The extension and alterations proposed will provide improved amenity to present and future occupiers and ensure that the building is put to its optimum viable use, thus safeguarding its future preservation.”

A heritage impact statement submitted with the application says many of the original features have been lost over time, meaning the Burford station is not as well preserved as some others in the UK.

Around 70 stations are believed to have survived from the original 1,563 built in the 1950s and 60s.

Shropshire Council’s planning officers will decide on the scheme in due course.