Azara Blog: Cambridge nuclear bunker to be demolished

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Date published: 2005/04/28

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Councillors have decided to demolish a Cold War era bunker - despite protests from English Heritage.

The listed building off Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge, was built to protect emergency Government staff in the event of a nuclear war.

It is Cambridge's most visible reminder of the Cold War but to most onlookers, it is simply an ugly concrete block.

Developers building homes on the site - which once housed Government offices and a driving test centre - have been trying to get permission to demolish the building for more than two years but were hampered when it was listed by English Heritage.

Now Cambridge City Council's planning committee has given its blessing to the demolition despite council officers recommending that they protect it.
Because it is listed, the application will now have to go to the Government and a minister will have the option of overturning the council's decision.

Sophie Jepson, from English Heritage, said: "In its severe and brooding form the bunker speaks eloquently of the very real fear of nuclear confrontation that permeated Britain during the recent historical era.

"English Heritage accepts that the bunker, listed Grade II, is no longer needed for its original use but despite the highly unusual nature of the building believe a practical, viable alternative use can be found that will allow this remarkable monument to be preserved.

"English Heritage is disappointed with the decision and we will now be working with the regional government planners to decide the next steps forward."

Coun Richard Smith, planning committee member, said: "We felt that there is a new development and lots of new properties so it is quite incongruous to have it there. It is not a pretty building. The committee feels some sort of memorial could be left to show what was there."
Chris Crook, managing director of Countryside Properties said: "We worked with the Bunker Preservation Trust who assured us the bunker had no architectural or historic merit and looked into a number of options.

"However, current health and safety legislation and the inability of the bunker to be satisfactorily used for storage or as a museum means demolition is the most sensible option.

"Failure to do so will result in a large, derelict structure remaining within a modern, high quality residential development that is the largest and possibly most important in Cambridge for many years."

The bunker is ugly and without "architectural merit". And English Heritage lists far too many buildings. But to describe the bunker as without "historic merit" is wrong. And it's always a bit suspicious when the city council just happens to side with a developer. It is interesting that the developer says that the bunker couldn't possibly remain within a "high quality residential development". No doubt if it were in Arbury instead of Brooklands Avenue that opinion would not have been expressed, so the rich of Cambridge are again given a pass. And although it is not yet finished, so far the view from Brooklands Avenue suggests that the new development is a large collection of bunkers which are bigger (above ground) and almost as ugly as the original bunker.

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