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Campaign to preserve nuclear bunker that was Camden’s control centre during Cold War

Pictured (from left) are John Slater, Nori Howard, Linda Lefevre, Patrick Lefevre and Cllr Sally Gimson at the entrance to the 1950s Camden Command Centre shelter in Highgate Road. Picture: Polly Hancock Pictured (from left) are John Slater, Nori Howard, Linda Lefevre, Patrick Lefevre and Cllr Sally Gimson at the entrance to the 1950s Camden Command Centre shelter in Highgate Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

Monday, February 10, 2014
8:30 AM

A subterranean nuclear bunker that was Camden’s borough control centre during the Cold War era has stood empty for decades hidden in a park.

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The shelter, which stands at the junction of Gordon House Road and Highgate Road in Dartmouth Park, once housed an underground lair including a conference room with two message hatches and space for scientific advisors.

But the damp-riddled structure, visible only as a simple concrete box at ground level, has not been used since the Civil Defence Corps was disbanded in 1968 and has fallen into disrepair.

Now the Dartmouth Park Community Area Advisory Committee (DPCAAC) has launched a campaign for it to be saved and transformed into a community space.

The group has nominated the bunker to be placed on Camden’s Local List to preserve its heritage.

Patrick Lefevre, chair of DPCAAC said: “It hasn’t been opened or cleaned up in several years which has meant a steady deterioration. It has a great deal of potential for being a community space.

“Elsewhere in the country spaces like this have been turned into museums and listed by English Heritage, so we’re very keen to see this particular bit of local history at least locally listed here.

“Once it’s protected we can look intelligently at how it could be used.”

Believed to have been built in the early 1950s in response to a nuclear threat, the shelter and the land that it sits on belong to Camden Council.

Plans show the eight-room bunker included a scientific advisors and control room, a plant room, conference room, as well as a kitchen, canteen and male and female toilets.

The council has placed the bunker on its regeneration list, but the area advisory committee fear this will not offer sufficient protection.

Highgate councillor Sally Gimson is involved in the campaign for it to be locally listed and said the shelter needs to be “acknowledged, recognised and restored”.

She said: “It’s part of our history in Camden. I think we should at least list it so it isn’t just destroyed.

“But what would be fun would be to do it up and have people visit it.

“You could learn about the Cold War and it really brings that home to you if you realise that this is round the corner.

“I have asked if I can go and visit it and I haven’t heard anything back yet.”

Funding for regeneration would have to come from the National Lottery or a similar organisation but community campaigners say they first need access to the bunker to see what they are dealing with.

A council spokesman said safety checks would have to be carried out before anyone could go inside.

The spokesman said: “Consultation on the draft Local List closed on December 20, with responses now being reviewed.

“Any new nominations received as part of this process will be assessed against selection criteria before a final version of the Local List is produced later this year.

“We’re committed to protecting the borough’s heritage with all nominations received given full consideration.”

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