South West Water commissioned 3 emergency control centres in the late 1980’s. Two were purpose built semi-sunken bunkers, one within the Littlehempston Treatment Works near Totnes and a similar bunker at the former treatment works at Coswarth near Newquay. The 3rd Emergency Control Centre was built within the wall of a dam on the Drift Reservoir west of Penzance. The latter has now been converted into a pumping station while the two bunkers at Tonnes and Newquay are extant and remain largely unused.
Externally the Littlehempston Emergency Control Centre consists of a grass covered earth mound with a small brick blockhouse at one end housing the intake and exhaust ventilation shafts and the main entrance into the bunker. This consists of a wooden door opening onto a flight of nine steps. At the bottom there is a heavy steel and concrete blast door to the right into a small lobby with two further blast doors a small one to the right, a large one to the left and a wooden door straight ahead. The small blast door opens into a filter room where filters could be inserted into metal trunking running from the intake air shaft to the ventilation plant in an adjacent room.
The larger blast door gives access to the standby generator room. There are 2 Dorman/Broadcrown generators (415V 3 Phase 27KVa) and a 260 gallon fuel tank which is surrounded by a brick wall. The generators are run monthly.
The wooden door leads into the decontamination room which has a raised shower in one corner with three steps up to it and a hand operated pump on the opposite wall. At the far end of a room is an air lock consisting of two blast doors five feet apart, the second door opening into the dining and recreation room, the largest room in the bunker. From here there is direct access to all the other rooms in the bunker.
The first room to the left of the entrance is the unisex toilet with one urinal, two hand basins, one floor standing sump tank with a hand pump and two WC cubicles which have never had WC’s installed in them. The next room to the left is the kitchen which contains copper water piping and in one corner a tap with a stainless steel sink and draining board mounted on a wooden kitchen unit. A door leads out of the kitchen into a store and switchgear room. There are three floor standing electrical cabinets, one controlling the incoming mains supply and the others controlling the two standby generators. At the back of the room there is a door into a tank room containing two large water tanks and a smaller header tank.
Back in the recreation room one corner is chamfered with a door into the two dormitories one of which can also be accessed directly from the switchgear room. There is a partition wall between them but no door. The larger of the two rooms is damp with a little standing water on the floor. On the far wall is the emergency exit consisting of a small blast door opening onto a flight of stairs up to glass fibre shutters in the side of the earth mound.
A second door from this dormitory gives access to the operations room which can also be accessed from the back of the recreation room. Another door leads out of the operations room into the communications room with a further door leading from that into the smaller controller’s room which also has a door back into the right hand side of the recreation room. These three rooms are completely empty.
The final room accessed from the recreation room, to the right of the entrance door, is the ventilation plant room which retains its German-made plant in good working order. The plant consists of an Orion AL-HO AG made by Munters. There is a long handle on one side for two man manual operation in the event of a power failure.
Throughout, the bunker is unpainted with bare concrete walls and bare breeze block partition walls between rooms. All the rooms and corridors have ventilation trunking on the ceiling with uncovered wiring looms fixed to the ceilings and walls. Construction started in the summer of 1990 with a 75% Government grant but following the end of the cold war work was abruptly halted leaving the bunker in its present unfinished state. Today it is used in part for storage of redundant kit from the water treatment works but most of the rooms are empty and unused. Apart from the one room that is damp the bunker is dry throughout and in excellent condition. If it had become operational the bunker was designed for a staff of 16, 7 in the operations room, 6 in the communications room and 3 in the controllers room.
The Home Office have told South West Water that they are free to dispose of the bunker but as it’s within the water treatment works they are reluctant to find an outside user and are hoping to find a new internal use for it. The bunker is almost identical to the Severn Trent Water bunker at Leicester. It is interesting to note that the contractors who built it, Pick Everard Heavy and Gimsun of Taunton have their head office at Leicester.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford and Keith Ward.