Sunday 23 April 2017

Cold War nuclear bunker in back garden given protected status

A DIY nuclear bunker built in a back garden during the Cold War has been given a Grade II listed status (Department for Culture Media and Sport/PA)
A DIY nuclear bunker built in a back garden during the Cold War has been given a Grade II listed status (Department for Culture Media and Sport/PA)

A DIY nuclear bunker built in a back garden during the Cold War has been given protected status.

Despite being constructed of mainly second hand materials such as reinforced concrete, steel and brick, the one-storey bunker in Taverham, Norfolk, featured creature comforts including a spa bath and carpets.

The shelter was built by Noel Barrett in an area of private woodland in his back garden in 1982, at the height of Cold War tension in the wake of Russia's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, to protect him and his family in the event of nuclear fall-out.

It has been given Grade II listed status due to its historic importance as one of the surviving reminders of the fear and anxiety the Cold War caused among the public, especially in Norfolk which was home to numerous airfields.

Domestic nuclear shelters were commercially available during the Cold War but few were actually built.

The decision to list the DIY bunker was based on its rarity, design and historic interest, experts said.

Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: "This unique building is a clear reminder of the fear and anxiety that was present throughout the country during the Cold War.

"Though never used, it's a part of history that should be conserved for generations to come and this Grade II listing will help do that."

Tony Calladine, listing team leader at government heritage body Historic England, said: "This is a rare example of a private nuclear shelter as very few are known to survive.

"It vividly illustrates public anxiety during a period of heightened tension towards the end of the Cold War and therefore fully merits being Grade II listed."

Retired fish and chip shop owner Mr Barrett said his experience working as a driver at Sculthorpe air base near Fakenham, Norfolk, in the 1960s had given him an insight into the Cold War and the readiness of the military for action.

He said he built the bunker, which still has the spa bath - though it has not been used for many years - gym equipment and a working heating system, as protection from the blast radius that would flatten buildings and trees, as well as from flooding.

Mr Barrett said he still cared for the shelter: "I go down to hoover, brush down, wash down and clean up. In the last fortnight, I've given it an annual spring clean and paint."

Asked what he thought of the Grade II listing, he said: "I'm delighted, because it was threatened when I first did it.

"The council said I needed planning consent, but I said I can't see how it does because it's a nuclear bunker and you've no guidelines as to how it should be built.

"I stuck to my guns, and the council eventually backed down."

He added that councillors had warned the structure would be an unauthorised development which could make it hard to sell the house - but "now it's listed, it goes straight to the top of the tree".

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