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Preserving our past…
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In an area of woodland, just to the east of the High Street lie sixteen air raid shelters. The shelters were built by Courtaulds in 1939 to protect their workforce from the Luftwaffe. Courtaulds' Halstead factory worked directly on war production during WWII, including weaving fabric for parachutes. There were no air attacks on the factory although 170 visits were recorded in the factory's log of time lost to air raids.
The two offset lines of shelters are close to the former factory. Fifteen of them are Costains, a semi-sunken type, built from preformed concrete arcs and designed to hold up to 50 people. A sixteenth shelter, was built in brick on the surface and had several uses: as a first aid centre, a communications centre and an ARP Warden's post.
Informal research has shown that a surviving group of so many air raid shelters is very rare. Industrial WWII civil defence structures are disappearing at an alarming rate, so Halstead is very lucky to still have this piece of history. Their significance has earned them a place in the Local Heritage List and they are included in Save Britain's Heritage's Buildings at Risk register.
The verdant land the shelters lie on is part of Halstead Conservation Area but has been promoted for development for 50 years. An outline planning application (ref: 018/02084/OUT) for the whole site was submitted to Braintree District Council in November 2018. The plan proposes the construction of up to 73 dwellings comprising of 32 houses and 41 apartments, with associated car parking, amenity spaces and external works. The developer has suggested that any the shelters preserved would be decided at a later date as a ‘reserved matter’.
It is expected that the planning application will be determined during the spring of 2019.
These shelters are on Save Britain's Heritage buildings at risk register