Azara Blog: The 20th Century Society wants to save the Cambridge bunker

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Date published: 2005/05/27

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Campaigners protesting against the demolition of a concrete Cold War bunker are calling for a public inquiry.

Cambridge City Council gave the green light for demolition of the former standby Regional Seat of Government building off Brooklands Avenue in Cambridge.

The 1950s building was intended for use in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.

Developers Countryside Properties have built houses and flats on the same site and want to pull it down. But the building has a grade II listing and so the case will now have to go to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for a final ruling.

But the London-based 20th Century Society wants a full public inquiry so they can put across their case that it should be saved from the bulldozers.

The organisation's director, Catherine Croft, said: "If the Cold War threat of nuclear destruction had come to pass, the Regional Seat of Government in a leafy part of Cambridge would have been just one of a number of impenetrable headquarters from which civil servants would have attempted to counter the devastation.

"Originally built in the early 1950s, it was expanded in the early 1960s in a brutalist style. It was listed grade II in July 2003, but despite this Cambridge City Council now want to allow its demolition.

"The 20th Century Society has joined English Heritage arguing that it is a building of immense historic importance, with a potent ability to convey the true horror of a period of uncertainty and fear that many people today are too young to remember. It could be used as a storage building if museum use is not viable."

The society's chairman, Gavin Stamp, added: "Here is brutalism for a really brutal function. We rightly preserve monuments as unequivocal statements from the past, and the survival of this bunker is important, for democracy, for openness, for historical truth."

But Chris Crook, managing director of Countryside Properties said: "Cambridge City Council has given full and thorough consideration to the future of the bunker, which resulted in the decision to demolish the building.

"The Bunker Preservation Trust has assured us it has no architectural or historic merit, and should an appeal against demolishing the bunker go to public inquiry we will maintain our current position supporting its removal."

The walls of the structure are several feet thick and Countryside Properties has estimated the cost of demolition will be around half a million pounds.

The Cambridge bunker has no architectural merit (well, there is a lot of ivy growing up it which hides the brutalism) but it does have some historic merit. Perhaps in 2525 the citizens of Cambridge will rue the day the bunker was lost, but you could say that about most things, even Coke tins. Buildings with no use serve little purpose in life. Of course you could just leave the bunker to become a classic ruin, it would take a few hundred years and maybe by then it would be appreciated. A couple of the town houses on the Brooklands Avenue site were sold for 1.2 million pounds, so although Countryside complains about the cost of demolition, they will make a pretty penny if they are allowed to demolish it.

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