WORK is set to begin within weeks on converting a disused former nuclear bunker to a dedicated youth music facility after Wiltshire Council agreed to hand over £100,000 of section 106 money for the project.

The Sound Emporium will provide six hours of free youth service a week from the site, which will open in three to five months’ time.

Planning permission for the conversion was granted last month along with an agreement by Salisbury City Council (SCC) to lease the Harnham Bunker at a peppercorn rent.

But £100,000 of community money from developers in Harnham to be used for the conversion still needed to be signed off by Wiltshire Council.

They had agreed to hold a special meeting of Salisbury Area Board to confirm the transfer of the money, but it was cancelled when it was decided a vote was not required.

It was the final green light needed before work could commence.

Sound Emporium boss Ross Sanderson said it was “all systems go” with work to begin as soon as the legal paperwork is signed.

“We are working on the final designs and we hope it will be visually exciting,” he said.

“But the project is not just about housing the youth service.

Life Rocks [the community interest group which will run the service] has bigger ambitions as it is about music and arts across the whole city.”

He added the they were currently in talks to get a celebrity patron onboard.

The Sound Emporium is currently based at Grosvenor House and although the current agreement is due to expire at the end of March, Ross says in principal a deal is in place to extend that while work at the bunker continues.

  • It comes after the Journal can reveal a separate bid to make the bunker a listed building was rejected by the government.

Success would have scuppered the Sound Emporium project.

Historic England refused the application, saying it was relatively low down the military command hierarchy and said it was not of national interest.

“Salisbury’s former Urban District Civil Defence Control Centre [Harnham Bunker] completed in 1962, re-using an earlier military bunker probably dating from the 1940s is an interesting example of a local response to the perceived threats of the Cold War,” the report said.

“Although it survives relatively well, it lacks the historic special interest, specialisation of purpose and associations necessary for listing.”