Barnton Quarry: Planning permission sought to turn nuclear bunker into visitor attraction centre

The owners of Edinburgh’s famous Cold War nuclear bunker want to turn it into a visitor attraction and conference facility.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 12:58 pm
Buried 100 feet beneath Corstorphine Hill lies a chilling remnant of the Cold War: a secret bunker equipped to house hundreds of state and military officials in the event of nuclear fallout. The 1950s-built bunker, one of the only surviving types in the UK, was used to receive intelligence from radar stations across Scotland.
Buried 100 feet beneath Corstorphine Hill lies a chilling remnant of the Cold War: a secret bunker equipped to house hundreds of state and military officials in the event of nuclear fallout. The 1950s-built bunker, one of the only surviving types in the UK, was used to receive intelligence from radar stations across Scotland.

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An application has been submitted to Edinburgh City Council for major refurbishment works y the owner of the Barnton Quarry Nuclear Bunker, Scotscrown Ltd, which is run by James Mitchell.

Mr Mitchell also owns Scotland’s Secret Bunker, an underground museum, located near St Andrews in Fife. He believes that the bunker should be accessible to the public.

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He said: “It really is a part of our history and we don’t want to lose it.

“Everything is going to be done to the highest standards so that we can we can do much more interactive things with children, schools and universities.

"We’ve had a lot of participation from the local community, so I’d like to think that it would become a positive for them, instead of the eye sore that it is just now”.

Mr Mitchell said he anticipates council planning officials making a recommendation on his application within weeks.

The bunker, which sits in Barnton Quarry in Clermiston, was originally built in 1940, and expanded in the 1950s, so as to be used as a Sector Operations Centre during the Cold War. It was later redesigned to be used as a seat of government in the case of a nuclear attack, which could accommodate 400 politicians and civil servants for up to 30 days.

It is one of the largest subterranean military sites in the UK.

Scotscrown submitted a similar planning permission application last year, however, they did not submit a full bat survey, so were asked by the council to withdraw the application and resubmit.

Earlier this year, the bunker was granted Category-A listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland.

In the 1990s, the bunker was damaged by two fires and raided for scrap metal by vandals and thieves.

The architect for the project, Kelvin Donaldson, said: “The community and neighbours have been consulted informally by the client over a number of years, and have been involved in the refurbishments through community workshops.

"When my client bought this bunker, it was a burned out shell. Through the involvement of volunteers and their studious hard work over a large number of years, they have cleared out the bunker and started a long process of bringing it back into its original condition”.

Scotscrown Ltd worked with the volunteers to transform the 30,000 sq. ft. site, which was ravaged by fire in 1993, more than 10 years after it was decommissioned.

Plans to open it to the public last summer were delayed due to Covid-19, and its owners have already laid the groundwork for hosting virtual tours thanks to a new full fibre broadband connection.

Powered by CityFibre, the site now boasts state-of-theart full fibre connectivity. The connection allows Barnton Quarry to host virtual tours to a global audience, and it will also be available to local schools.

Speaking previously, part owner Martyn Dawson said: "When RAF Barnton Quarry was built in 1952 the government could have only dreamed of such a service that CityFibre has provided us.

"We are excited with the interactive learning opportunities this will enable us to bring to our guests once we have finished the restoration."

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