PROTESTS broke out in Herefordshire as plans for a nuclear bunker in the county were made public.

With the risk of a nuclear bomb being detonated during the Cold War, nuclear bunkers were a serious consideration in Britain during the last century.

But while you might expect them to have been built under Government buildings, Herefordshire's only bunker was somewhere you might not expect... beneath a retirement complex in Leominster.

And the 1982 plans were far from popular, with peace protesters turning out in force to decry the scheme.

The planned Arkwright Court bunker, which would have space for 12 people, was "farcical", according to Councillor Adam Scott at the time.

Some locals were so upset at the plans that they withheld payments of their rates, while an angry, banner-waving group marched on Leominster District Council's annual meeting in May 1982.

Despite the anti-bunker movement, the plans for the bunker, which would house the chief executive of Leominster District Council and 11 of his staff in the event of a nuclear bomb being dropped, would go ahead, with ground broken in Church Street in September the next year.

It was not plain sailing for the project, with peace campaigners still rallying against it, and a sit-in held at the site in November to prevent concrete lorries from accessing it.

But the council would be left red-faced the next year, with council officers telling the Hereford Times in 1984 that the bunker, which included a main operations room, a room for the controller, a room for scientific officers, and toilet, kitchen, and sleeping facilities, was not, in fact, nuclear bomb-proof.

Chief technical officer John Berrett was quoted as saying that other cellar space, which would be used as a dustbin area for the flats above, was almost as well protected.


By 1992, campaigners were calling for the closure of the bunker, claiming it was a "white elephant", but their calls were slapped down by Leominster District Council, which said it was important to plan for a potential disaster.

By 1994, the town's civic trust was offering access but warned there was little to view beyond a ventilation system and telephone line.

In 1998 the effectively empty bunker became the responsibility of Herefordshire Council.

And by 2000, the writing was on the wall for the bunker, with a planning application for the conversion of the redundant nuclear bunker to a document storage facility approved.

Later plans for a second bunker in the county were put forward for Brockington, then headquarters of South Herefordshire District Council, but were thwarted in 1987 by the presence of mature lime trees which were protected by Tree Preservation Orders.