Builders demolish World War II pillbox

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BUNGLING builders have been slammed after demolishing an historic pillbox dating back to the Second World War.

A pile of rubble is all that remains of the concrete pillbox on the Middle Warren site, in Hartlepool, after it was demolished by developers Bellway Homes.

The firm has apologised but their actions have been slammed by councillors and museum bosses.

Hartlepool Borough Council has confirmed it shouldn’t have been demolished and is currently considering what further action to take.

Councillors say the structure on the popular Bishop Cuthbert estate should have been protected, while history buffs have described it as a “great shame”.

The structure, one of two on the site, was not listed.

But council officers have confirmed under planning permission granted back in 1997, any archaeological remains on the site must be properly protected.

Bellway says it will carry out some archaeological work around the pillbox to identify any finds and will also commission a leaflet about the Second World War developments around the site.

The pillbox was one of 50 similar structures across Hartlepool.

They were part of General Sir Edmund Ironside’s stop lines, the last line of defence in the war to any land attacks from the south or west of the town.

They housed armed home guard soldiers and were built as defences in the event of German attacks or bombing raids.

Pillboxes are a common sight throughout the coastal regions of Britain, a stark reminder of a time when the nation was at war.

The second pillbox remains on the site – and Bellway has given assurances it will be fully protected.

A council spokesman said: “We have inspected the pillboxes on the Middle Warren site and can confirm that one of them, opposite the rugby club on Easington Road, has been demolished.

“This should not have happened.

“Although the pillboxes on the Middle Warren site are not listed, when outline planning permission was granted in 1997 for housing on the site one of the conditions was that any archaeological remains must be properly protected and that any such protection scheme must be approved in advance by the council.

“We have taken the matter up with the site developer, Bellway Homes, and we are currently considering what further action to take.

“In the meantime we have sought immediate assurances from the company that the other pillbox which is located nearby will be fully and properly protected.”

John Southcott, chairman of the Heugh Battery Museum, on Hartlepool’s Headland, said: “It is a great shame that one of the pillboxes has been demolished.

“An accident is an accident, but this is still very sad because once they are gone they are gone.

“If Hartlepool was attacked from the south or west then these stop lines were literally the last line of defence.

“There is still one remaining on the site which people can still see but it is a great shame the other one is no longer there.”

Ward councillors have also hit out at the demolition.

Labour councillor Paul Beck, who represents the Hart ward, said: “The pillbox was an historic structure and people look at these monuments as special places of interest.

“We have a right for these to be protected.

“I am very concerned and will be making my views known as ward councillor.”

A spokesman for Bellway Homes said: “This was an oversight for which we apologise for the error. In mitigation Bellway will undertake some archaeological work around the pillbox to identify any archaeological finds and will also be commissioning a special leaflet about the Second World War developments around the Middle Warren area that we will make available to local libraries in due course.”