A few weeks ago, plans were announced to open up some Cold War tunnels to the public, and now some more details have emerged about how they plan to do that.
The tunnels run under parts of Holborn and were built as shelters during WWII, but repurposed during the Cold War as a deep-level telecommunications exchange. They were put up for sale in 2008, but no serious bidders emerged until recently, when fund manager Angus Murray bought the tunnels with the plans to open them to the public.
It’s a long process to open the tunnels to the public, with the first consultation currently underway, and that’s where some more details have emerged about how they will do this.
The first question is how people will get into the tunnels, and they’ve confirmed that the public entrance will be on Furnival Street, a few minutes walk from Chancery Lane tube station.
That’s not a huge surprise, as 39 Furnival Street is the fairly apparent goods entrance to the tunnels, so they are repurposing that for public access, although there will be a secondary entrance for deliveries to the tunnels at the former Chancery Lane tube station entrance on High Holborn – now an office block, Chancery Station House.
As the proposed public entrance is on a street with narrow pavements, they plan to revamp the area to make it more suitable for people visiting a tourist attraction.
People will go in via the original goods entrance, and leave via the office block next to it, which will be redeveloped for this purpose. Although built for wartime and later telecoms use, the refurbishment of the tunnels will make them accessible to people with wheelchairs and prams. Also, while people will have to pay to visit, they are also planning to offer free trips to primary school children in Camden and the City of London, and are considering, but haven’t decided yet, on a range of concessionary ticket prices.
Although it will have London’s deepest bar, there’s no plan to have much more in the way of food and drink, so no subterranean cafes. The owners say they hope visitors will use the bars and restaurants in the area at street level, boosting local trade. Their prospectus suggests local spending in the area would rise by between £60-£80 million a year, and they would employ at least 40 staff on site.
Ahead of submitting planning applications for the conversion work, there is a public exhibition of the plans. These consultation events will be hosted at The St Albans Centre, Leigh Place, Baldwin’s Gardens, London, EC1N 7AB on:
- Tuesday, 10 October at 3:30pm-7pm
- Thursday, 12 October at 3:30pm-7pm
- Saturday, 14 October at 11am-2pm
More details are here.