Belfast Telegraph

The Co Antrim nuclear bunker nobody wants to buy...yet

By Rebecca Black

In the current climate of great global uncertainty, it could be a useful - if pricey - acquisition.

But Stormont is struggling to sell its nuclear bunker in Ballymena.

Some 18 months after it was first advertised for sale, the underground complex remains on the market with an asking price of just over half a million pounds.

It is understood Stormont is eager to sell the former bunker due to its running costs.

The Ballymena bunker, which became operational in 1990, was designed to hold more than 200 people, including Northern Ireland's top VIPs.

However, it has been languishing on the property market since February 2016, with the asking price remaining at £575,000.

A spokesman for estate agent Lambert Smith Hampton told the Belfast Telegraph that there are no offers currently on the property, but added there is very good interest.

The bunker was commissioned in the late 1980s, opened in 1990 and is believed to be one of the most technically advanced bunkers built in the UK.

As well as the Ballymena bunker, there were also 44 smaller bunkers built across Northern Ireland to monitor the threat of a nuclear attack during the depths of the Cold War. A bunker in Portadown was turned into a museum by the Royal Observer Corps after it closed in 1991.

However, the bunker in Ballymena is the only one in Northern Ireland of its type, and extends to 46,383 sq ft over two floors, providing living accommodation for up to 236 people.

It includes dormitories, male and female WCs, commercial kitchen facilities, BBC audio visual broadcasting facility, conference facilities, air filtration systems, conference rooms, decontamination chambers, plant rooms and oil storage.

The lower floor of the bunker is completely underground, while the upper floor is mounded over with approximately one metre of earth.

It is maintained by Stormont's Executive Office in a "fit and ready state" for any such emergency but - thankfully - has never actually been used for its intended purpose.

Yet, as the crisis surrounding North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programmes reaches a new and more dangerous phase, fears of such an emergency are starting to grow.

The bunker includes three points of access all via interlocking double blast doors, and also boasts life support systems including air filtration plants, back-up generators and water storage tanks. In the event of a nuclear attack the building could have operated in a closed down situation for approximately 30 days.

When the Ballymena bunker was first offered for sale in February 2016, agents said they were expecting a lot of interest in the property and planned to hold a series of open mornings.

A former bunker in Chislehurst, Kent which had been converted into a palatial home went on the market last year for £3m.

Another former bunker in Exeter, Devon, has been turned into a post-apocalyptic laser tag arena while one in Yeovil, Somerset, has become a five-bedroom timber-clad eco-house, and a bunker in north Wales has been transformed into a recording studio which has remixed tracks for Rihanna and Kylie Minogue.

During the Cold War, the UK government ordered the construction of thousands of underground complexes. Almost 1,600 nuclear monitoring posts and 36 control posts for military and civil defence purposes were built across the UK between 1955 and 1965.

Additionally, during the 1980s, the government also funded a programme to create emergency Regional Government HQ centres in strategic locations.

A spokesperson for The Executive Office said: "The bunker is on the market for sale."

Belfast Telegraph


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