Last bunker for sale: all mod. bombs

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The Independent Online

For sale: spacious 1950s structure. Very secure, décor has heavy accent on concrete. Comes with all mod cons and five acres of farm land. Suit survivors of nuclear holocaust. Offers in the range of £50,000 to £100,000 are invited.

For sale: spacious 1950s structure. Very secure, décor has heavy accent on concrete. Comes with all mod cons and five acres of farm land. Suit survivors of nuclear holocaust. Offers in the range of £50,000 to £100,000 are invited.

For nearly 30 years Hope Cove in south Devon was home to one of the most secret buildings in Britain. Officially a radar station, it was in fact a nuclear bunker from which the whole of the South-west would have been ruled in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Now it's for sale.

Officially known as Regional Government HQ 7.2, Hope Cove has been placed on the open market by the Home Office. At one time considered crucial to the recovery of the nation in the event of a nuclear attack, the end of the Cold War left it redundant. A local farmer is among those to have expressed an early interest in buying the site.

The purchase of Hope Cove will complete the sell-off, begun in 1994, of the Government's 17 nuclear bunkers, the purpose of which was to house cabinet ministers, members of the emergency services, scientists and communications experts who would have assumed regional control of the UK until central government was able to recover.

Bunkers that were top secret for several decades have met with varying fates, from the bizarre to the mundane: uses now include tourist attractions, a DIY store, a veterinary surgery, a recording studio and a police base for riot training.

Another is home to an environmental research charity, while others were considered for use as sound-proof nightclubs, wine cellars and mushroom farms. Their sale has so far raised £1.85m for the Treasury.

The bunker at Hope Cove is encased in one-metre-thick walls - designed to keep out a marauding and desperate public as much as radioactive fall-out. It was built to hold 150 staff and has its own water and sewerage system and filtered ventilation to sieve off radiation.

These regional bunkers, two for every home defence region except for London, where there was one, were built in the late Fifties as a base for co-ordinating emergency planning in the event of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The minister in charge of each bunker would have enjoyed supreme power, deciding whether "euthanasia" - a bullet, rather than morphine - should be administered to the badly injured and dying.

The British war plan was fairly simple. It was assumed that there would be about three weeks of heightened international tension, during which food supplies could be stockpiled in the bunkers. A short period of conventional warfare would follow, quickly leading to a nuclear attack.

"The assumption was that a nuclear attack would take out London and not the rest of the country," said a Home Office spokeswoman. Kelvedon Hatch, deep in the Essex countryside, was the regional bunker for London.

There were armed guards at the gate up until 1992. Today it is a museum, preserved as it would have appeared during the Cold War, with offices, dormitories, a canteen, sick bay and a BBC studio (a model of Margaret Thatcher sits at the microphone) to broadcast developments and survival guides to any survivors.

A dummy of John Major lies asleep in the Prime Minister's room, a painting by Constable hanging on the wall, the toilet paper stamped with "HM Government" and the soap embossed with "ER".

Kelvedon Hatch was to have been self-sufficient for three months, after which time, in theory, radiation levels would have decreased sufficiently to enable the country to begin slowly piecing things together again.

Despite the sell-off, the Government retains the right, through compulsory purchase orders, to reclaim the bunkers should it ever feel the need.

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