A secret underground emergency bunker, built to protect essential services in the event of a nuclear war, is being auctioned by water and sewerage company South West Water.
The bunker, in Coswarth, Newquay, was constructed in 1978 during the Cold War so experts at the then South West Water Authority could maintain water and sewerage operations even after a nuclear holocaust.
The 3,000 sq ft bunker was designed for 16 people: seven in the operations room; six in the communications room; and three in the control room. The rooms are deep underground and the bunker is on the market with a £50,000 guide price.
Other features include several blast proof doors, an air lock, decontamination room, dining room, recreation room and two dormitories.
South West Water Asset Performance Manager Brian Blake, who worked for the authority at the time, said: “I remember that the Government said we had to provide an underground control centre in case of emergency which was bomb and nuclear proof. It wasn’t fully kitted out as there was no furniture in there, but if something had happened you could have lived in there for weeks.”
The company’s property manager Chris Shapland added: “We regularly auction redundant assets to reduce our costs and keep customers’ bills as low as possible, but this is the first time we’ve offered a genuine piece of cold war history.
“Novelty sites with small areas of surplus land always attract strong interest as people are able to invest relatively modest sums for their ‘little bit of England’. Several of our former storage reservoirs and pumping stations have been converted by their new owners into unusual homes.
“It will be interesting to see what happens to the bunker – you never know who could end up using it.”
The bunker and some adjacent land will be sold at auction on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Details and a catalogue can be obtained from Webbers Estate Agents Newquay. Tel. 01637 873888.
The Coswarth emergency bunker is covered in grass with a small brick blockhouse at one end housing the intake and exhaust ventilation shafts and the main entrance into the bunker. The entrance is via a flight of steps through a heavy steel and concrete blast door, then into a small lobby with two further blast doors. The small blast door opens into a filter room where filters could be inserted into metal trunking running from the intake air shaft to the ventilation plant in an adjacent room.
The larger blast door gives access to the standby generator room. The existing generator was installed in October 1992. The generator was run monthly until 2011. The diesel tank is empty.
A wooden door leads into the decontamination room which has a raised shower in one corner with three steps up to it and a hand-operated pump on the opposite wall. At the far end of a room is an air lock consisting of two blast doors five feet apart. The second door opens into the dining and recreation room, the largest room in the bunker which has direct access to all the other rooms.
The first room is a unisex toilet with one urinal, two hand basins and two cubicles which have never had toilets installed in them. The next room is the kitchen which contains copper water piping and in one corner a tap with a stainless steel sink and draining board mounted on a wooden kitchen unit. A door leads out of the kitchen into a store and switchgear room. There are three floor standing electrical cabinets, one controlling the incoming mains supply and the others controlling the two standby generators. At the back of the room there is a door into a tank room containing two large, empty water tanks and a smaller header tank. Back in the recreation room one corner is chamfered with a door into the two dormitories one of which can also be accessed directly from the switchgear room. There is a partition wall between them but no door. On the far wall is the emergency exit consisting of a small blast door opening onto a flight of stairs up to a chamber within the grassed area.
A second door from this dormitory gives access to the operations room which can also be accessed from the back of the recreation room. Another door leads out of the operations room into the communications room, with a further door leading from that into the smaller controller's room which also has a door back into the right hand side of the recreation room. These three rooms are completely empty. The final room, accessed from the recreation room, to the right of the entrance door, is the ventilation plant room which retains its German made plant in good working order.
Throughout, the bunker is unpainted with bare concrete walls and bare breeze block partition walls between rooms. All the rooms and corridors have ventilation on the ceiling with uncovered wiring looms fixed to the ceilings and walls.
Fifty percent of the proceeds of the sale of the bunker will be returned to customers through South West Water’s next price setting. Alongside other water and sewerage companies, South West Water is required to comply with various regulations and guidance that exist to prevent disruption, particularly to the supply of safe drinking water. We already have extensive systems in place in case of emergency and continue to upgrade as necessary.