Could bunker spark tourism explosion?

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Could Northern Ireland’s only nuclear bunker become a unique tourist attraction for Ballymena and the wider Mid & East Antrim area?

It’s a possibility that is being looked into by the borough’s Council, it has emerged.

In fact the ‘Super’ authority has been in contact with the building’s owner’s - the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFDFM) to declare an interest in the property.

Council has also been in contact with commercial property agents Lambert Smith Hampton, who put it up for sale earlier this month with offers invited in the region of £575,000. to arrange a viewing.

Located on the outskirts of Ballymena at Woodside Road, the government-owned bunker constructed during the Cold War is believed to be one of the last buildings of its kind ever built in the UK.

Details of Council’s interest in it emerged in a response to a tabled question submitted by Deputy Mayor Cr Timothy Gaston at a Council Committee meeting last week asking if Council “had made enquiries” about the property and that, if so, could funding opportunities be explored to develop it “as a tourism or conferencing facility, not only to preserve this unique piece of Cold War heritage, but add another attraction to the MEA offering?”

Under revised Standing Orders no discussion was allowed but a written response revealed: “Council through its Head of Assets and Facilities Maintenance has expressed an interest on behalf of Council on viewing the property through Lambert Smith Hampton. It is anticipated that a viewing day will be held within the next 2–3 weeks and we hope to clarify this shortly.

“Council have also been in contact with OFMDFM to declare an interest in the property...We have specifically asked our Tourism Consultants to consider the appropriateness and potential of the nuclear bunker to the Mid & East Antrim Tourism proposition.”