PLANS to demolish the Ellesmere Port council offices and remove its underground bunker have been approved today (May 14).

Cheshire West and Chester Council's proposal to knock down the Civic Way building – deemed 'surplus to requirements' – forms part of the town's £16m regeneration scheme.

The masterplan will see a new public sector hub built on the site of the bus station, which will be relocated into state-of-the-art shelters along Civic Way.

More than 500 council and Department for Work and Pensions staff will move into the new hub, enabling the council offices to be demolished to make way for further development.

As part of the demolition plans, which have been given the green light by planning officers, the council will also remove an underground bunker and temporarily landscape the site – including adding a timber knee rail around it – until the area is redeveloped.

In his report recommending approval, case officer Karl Spilsbury said: "Cheshire West and Chester Council has submitted the application in advance of the proposal to redevelop the site as it is considered necessary to commence remediation works in order to meet any future occupier/developer's timescale requirements for becoming operational.

"As such the proposal involves the removal of an underground bunker, remediation works and engineering operations which will result in a levelled site ready to receive redevelopment in the future.

"The existing offices are now deemed surplus to requirements by the local authority and as such are being demolished to make way for future development.

"Visually they add nothing to the area, their outdated 1970s design does not enhance the prevailing layout of the area and as such the demolition will not detract from the overall character of Ellesmere Port.

"The land will be made good, the trees retained where possible and the land grassed over. A small, 500mm wooden fence will surround the site and the existing hardstanding used for car parking will remain."

A condition attached to the planning approval is that no demolition will be carried out on the site between March 1 and August 31 – inclusive in any year – unless approved in writing by the local planning authority.

This is in the interest of species protection.

It is not clear when the underground bunker was built, but planning documents dating back to January 1990 refer to proposals for a basement emergency centre as part of the extension to the Civic Way council offices which also included office floor space and a council chamber.

The plans for the basement emergency centre, which along with the extension were approved in the same month, included numerous facilities such as three-tier bunk beds, a kitchen and restroom, toilets and showers, an area for removing contaminated clothing, and rooms for scientific advisers, a management team, an emergency committee, and the chief executive.