A COLD War bunker is to be used as a storm drain in a £4 million housing project on Portland.

The development by Weymouth and Portland Housing (WPH) will involve 33 new flats and nine new houses, specifically designed to meet families' housing needs.

Building work at Grangecroft at Weston on Tophill will see a mixture of flats for rent and to buy on land acquired from the Ministry of Defence.

It features an underground bunker, which was one of over 1,500 similar shelters throughout the UK built by the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) during the threat of nuclear war.

Housing group spokesman Joe Stevens said: "They are all identical and built in the 50s and 60s.

"This particular one was a satellite site to a main one in Yeovil and had a direct link."

The underground bunkers were designed to give protection while the ROC carried out work monitoring fall-out in the event of a nuclear attack.

The Grangecroft Road bunker was opened in August 1960.

It was welded shut in 1997 after the end of the Cold War.

When re-opened, it was found to have in it a table, cupboard, shelves and a candleholder as well as the remnants of monitoring and communications equipment.

WPH deputy chairman Michael McCormick Smith and tenant board member Peter Brooks were lending a helping hand to clear out the Grangecroft site for work to begin.

Mr McCormick Smith said: "Grangecroft will provide for a mixed community of flats for sale on shared ownership terms to qualifying applicants and flats for affordable rent, both of which will help meet the need for low-coast housing on Portland."

Mr Brooks added: "Set on the spectacular West Cliff side of Portland, with its cliff walks south to Portland Bill and north to Chisel Beach, what a wonderful location for young people to start out life in their own homes."

A dozen of the flats at Grangecroft are two-bedroom properties that will be for sale under an affordable housing scheme. There will also be nine two-bedroom and 12 one-bedroom flats available to rent.

The second development in Moorfield Road will see nine new houses built on land acquired from Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to provide affordable housing only.

The land, which was once a chicken farm, was neglected and became home to several small reptiles, which were relocated to a special reserve with the help of Natural England.

The schemes are due to be completed by March 2008.