Derelict decoy bunker could become holiday let

Friday 7th December 2012 12:00 am
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A DERELICT electric generator building that dates from the Second World War could be renovated and turned into a holiday cottage if Monmouthshire planners agree to the scheme.

The original building at Clawdd-y-Parc, Llangybi was built in 1941 and used as an electricity-generating bunker to create decoy lighting on the Pen-y-Lan ridge.

The lights were intended to divert German bombing missions away from the Royal Ordnance factory at Glascoed.

The decoy lighting display was laid out in the fields around 400m to the south-west of the building and featured electrical lighting effects that mimicked war–time permitted lighting and fire effects of the Glascoed site. The decoy idea worked, as the site was successfully bombed during a raid in the area.

But now today's owner hopes to rebuild it to resemble as much as possible the original building as a holiday let.

The earth sheltered, half-underground building was built of brick and was manned during the war. It comprised two rooms - a generator room with a chimney to the outside and a living area.

But over time the roof has collapsed and all that remains is the external and internal walls.

The building is remembered by people living locally, who recall the bomb damage to the nearby farmhouse at Graigwith from an aerial mine, proving that the decoy scheme worked.

However, Llangybi Community Council pointed out that this planning application was not really about conservation, but about creating new holiday accommodation in the open countryside.

Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust also considered the importance of the historic structure after a similar decoy bombing site generator and control room complex near Llantwit Major was deemed to be of national importance and was Scheduled as an Ancient Monument.

The trust suggested that, as the structure was in such poor condition, it should be considered as regional rather than of national importance.

Usk Civic Society has some sympathy with the owner's declared purpose of preserving the generator house in view of its historical context.

Roger J C Thomas, a military historian and advisor to Cadw, the Welsh heritage body, said in a letter to Monmouthshire County Council that the Coed-y-Paen 'A' (Army) Series bombing decoy night shelter at Clawdd-y-Parc is a historically significant structure that played a vital part in reducing the effectiveness of the Luftwaffe's bombing campaign against Great Britain, and in specifically protecting the ordnance factory from aerial attack.

He revealed that during the Second World War, only eight 'A' Series night shelters were built to protect targets in Wales. One stands in England and seven were built in Wales.

Of the seven Welsh sites, five are known to survive to a greater or lesser degree.

Mr Thomas said the quality of the survival of the structure at Clawdd-y-Parc is very poor and basically comprises a concrete floor, a blast wall, and two end walls, the eastern wall of which is severely damaged and at risk of collapse.

He added: "Without urgent remedial work being carried out, and or a sympathetic new use being given to the structure, it will continue to deteriorate to the point where it will only be understood as an archaeological monument or feature in the landscape.

"The application offers a potential for breathing new life into the structure. The overall appearance of the proposed building alterations, although lengthened slightly to the east, would not radically differ from that of the original. The turf covered roof with the projecting flue would be very similar to the appearance of the night shelter roof, and would help blend the structure back into the landscape in the same manner as the original."

Jonathan Berry, Cadw's regional inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology, has determined that the structure has deteriorated too far to be considered for listing and does not meet the criteria for being a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance.

The building's owner Adam Humphreys says that for it to meet modern-day regulations the structure would have to be altered and buried deeper into the ground to maintain its original proportions above ground.

He said: "My father once restored a local wartime bunker and if this building is granted planning permission for its renovation it will also help to tell the story of the part this area played during World War II."

As yet no war diary has been found for this particular decoy, so unfortunately no specific account of the operational history of the site can be written.

Although the amount of rebuilding is more than is normally allowed under Monmouthshire's rules, planners believe that given the original use of the building and the regional historic significance of the site, it is considered that the building should be allowed to be adapted to beneficial use to ensure its retention.

In the officer's report it states: "The overall appearance of the proposed building alterations would not be significantly different from that of the original and the turf covered roof with the projecting flue would be very similar to the appearance of the night shelter roof.

"This proposed conversion and rehabilitation is considered to help reduce the overall loss of historic structures."

The application is due to be discussed at this week's planning committee meeting,

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