Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Property agent relies on buyers' bunker mentality

THE SALE of hundreds of detached, country residences is the latest reminder of the Cold War's passing. The compact properties boast 15ft vertical entrances, very secure doors and uninterrupted views of rolling countryside.

For the last three deacades the 15ft by 8ft one-roomers have operated as underground nuclear bunkers. More than 700 were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, forming a national network to monitor nuclear fall-out and measure radiation levels in the event of a nuclear attack.

In spite of the perceived Communist threat, the stations were never used except in Royal Observer Corps exercises. Now the Government is selling them off.

This means a huge amount of detective work for Neil Willitt, of PSA Building Management Manchester, who is handling the sale of up to 20 bunkers. He must trace people who originally sold land to the Government. They have first option to buy it back.

Many contacted in the painstaking search are incredulous. 'It can take ages to trace people and then they ask if you are Jeremy Beadle,' Mr Willitt said.

Some bunkers have already been sold. Among the prospective buyers are expected to be nostalgic former members of monitoring organisations, bird watchers, radio hams and mobile telephone companies. 'Some people have suggested using them as wine cellars and by God you can get a lot of bottles in,' he said.

The bunkers offer a unique real estate opportunity, but they have their limitations. They boast a telephone connection, but have no lighting, water or drainage. A ladder enables visitors to safely negotiate the long entrance and en suite facilities amount to a bucket in the corner of the room.

PSA has yet to gauge the market, but Mr Willitt expects them to fetch from a few hundred to several thousand pounds each.

(Photographs omitted)