A Cold War bunker in Devon is a solid investment
says Christopher Middleton
(taken from the Daily Telegraph Saturday 04jun11)
Hope Cove Nuclear Shelter
It is rare for a surveyor's report not to pick at least a few holes in whatever property you are buying. That said, even the most gimlet-eyed inspector would find it hard to question the structural soundness of the building Trevor Lethbridge and Derek Brooking are selling.
It is a bombproof Ministry of Defence military bunker, built in 1954 to withstand the worst that Russia and her Communist allies could throw at us. However, despite being blessed with It glorious location overlooking the Kingsbridge Estuary in south Devon, the Hope Cove shelter does not have a single window through which to enjoy the view.
What it has, though, is three feet-thick concrete walls, plus a subterranean labyrinth of rooms designed to accommodate the 150 most important people in the South West. These included everyone from engineers and scientists to Armed Forces commanders and the odd politician. These hand-picked luminaries would have been required to take charge of the region in the event of enemy attack having disabled the normal machinery of government.
Don't panic: one-time nuclear shelter Hope Cove could be perfect for a Cold War
museum, say Trevor Lethbridge, above left, and Derek Brooking
"I don't imagine Derek and I would have been among those 150," laughs Trevor, a local-born farmer. "When the MoD put this place on the market back in 2000, we, came to look around out of curiosity more than anything.
" We all knew it existed, of course. It's hard to keep a place secret when it's sitting on top of a hill and is visible for miles around.
"Originally, we were just interested to see what had been going on here all these years behind closed doors. It was only when the deadline for putting in bids drew near that we thought it might work out as a bit of an investment."
And it looks like it has. At the time of the sale, it was reported that bids of £50,000-£100,000 were invited. Today, Hope Cove is on the market for £750,000.
"At the time, people thought we were taking a big risk," says Trevor. "On top
of which there was a clause in the sale which gave the MoD
10 years in which it could claw the property back if required."
The 10 years is now up, which means Trevor and Derek are free to sell the bunker at whatever price they like. According to estate agent Andrew Black, it is now worth a lot more than they paid for it because it was under-priced in the first place.
"A lot of these places were sold on the nod, with no real consideration
of what they were worth," says Black, who works in the Shrewsbury office
of Carter Jonas and has become a bit of a bunker specialist. "Sometimes
there would have been no more than 10 people in the saleroom.
. "That said, there was no expense spared in the original construction. I've been researching extensively and some of the biggest bunkers, capable of withstanding nuclear attack, cost between £30 million-£80 million to build.
"So effective is the insulation at Hope Cove that, half a century after it was built, the inside doesn't smell remotely of damp. That's because the walls were built to keep out not just water, but the blast from a . 10,000lb Soviet bomb."
And while you might think the only kind of person who would want to own one of the these underground fortresses was a military type or Cold War enthusiast, a lot of bankers are interested in them, too. No, not to protect themselves from the public, but to preserve their important documents. '
"I've had approaches from banks and legal firms who want these bunkers for storage of hard-copy archives," says Black. "They are very aware that if, say, there was a bomb in London, they might not be able to access their archives.
"Altogether, I have 250 different organisations on my database of clients interested in bunkers. They include security firms and hi-tech IT companies. There is also an organisation called Vivos ( www.terravivos.com ). who buy underground shelters all over the world. They fit them with all modern comforts, then market them to people who are looking for somewhere to shelter in the event of an apocalypse."
Of which there are likely to be a growing number over the coming months, with US evangelist Harold Camping predicting that Doomsday will now be on October 21. On top of which, some groups believe that, according to an ancient Mayan prophecy, the whole world will be turned into a fireball at some point during December 2012, in what scientists term a "solar flare".
Ideally, Lethbridge would prefer to see the Hope Cove bunker used not as a refuge from Armageddon, but as a Cold War museum, or perhaps a subterranean art gallery-cum-studio.
"We held an art show here quite recently, and people came from far and wide," he says. "We've also run charity events and have even lent the place out to the local Fire Brigade, so they can carry out training drills in complete darkness and smoke-filled corridors.
" People are fascinated by this place, though there were a few who questioned our buying it in the first place. My then wife said the best thing we could do was paint the picture of an animal on the outside wall.
" I said, 'What animal's that, then?' and she said, 'A big white elephant!'. Luckily, I think we've proved her wrong."
* Hope Cove Bunker is at Malborough, near Salcombe, in south Devon, guide price £750,000. The agents are Carter Jonas (01939 210 171; www.carterjonas.co.uk ).