Northern Ireland

Stormont to sell off its nuclear bunker in Ballymena

A full view of the outside of bunker in Ballymena Image copyright Lambert Smith Hampton
Image caption The bunker is situated mainly underground in a 3.74 acre site within a Ballymena industrial estate

Northern Ireland's leaders are selling off their nuclear bunker.

The "unique" underground shelter stands in the Woodside Road industrial estate on the outskirts of Ballymena, County Antrim, and can house up to 235 people.

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Media captionBBC News NI's Mervyn Jess descended into the depths of Stormont's nuclear bunker in 2008.

It was commissioned by the government during the latter stages of the Cold War and construction began in 1987.

It contains dormitories, kitchen facilities, decontamination chambers, and has been kept in a "fit and ready state" for emergencies since 1990.

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Media captionThe bunker has three points of access by interlocking double blast doors, as BBC News NI's Will Leitch reports

The bunker is in the ownership of the Office of the First and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), which hopes to raise about £575,000 from the sale of the 3.74-acre site.

BBC News NI reported the existence of the bunker in 2007, after submitting a Freedom of Information request.

Image caption BBC News NI's Mervyn Jess inspected the tinned food stored in the bunker's kitchen in 2008

The following year, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) questioned Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness about an alleged list of people "to be taken there in a moment of peril".

Mr McGuinness replied that he knew nothing of the bunker and hoped he was not on the list.

Image caption The underground shelter contains a conference room

The then Environment Minister Arlene Foster, who has since become first minister of Northern Ireland, joked at the time that she had not granted it planning permission.

The shelter is one of almost 1,600 nuclear monitoring posts built across the UK since 1955.

Image caption The bunker was designed to house people with different state roles in the event of a nuclear attack

The property agent Lambert Smith Hampton said the Ballymena bunker was "believed to be one of the last and most technically advanced buildings of its kind ever built in the UK".

It has "interlocking double blast doors", a BBC audio visual broadcasting facility, bathrooms, conference rooms and storage facilities.

Image caption OFMDFM hopes to raise about £575,000 from the sale of the 3.74-acre site

The firm's surveyor, Andrew Fraser, described it as a "one of a kind property".

"This is an extremely rare listing and offers a unique opportunity for potential buyers," he said.

The agents suggested it could be used for tourism, media or storage purposes.

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