University set to demolish explosives bunkers at Harpur Hill research facility

The University of Sheffield has announced plans to demolish part of its Harpur Hill research facility which is used to study the impact of explosive blasts.

By Ed Dingwall
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:13 pm

Documents submitted to High Peak Borough Council (application DET/2022/0005) show that the university wishes to remove two of the reinforced concrete bunkers, which were previously used for laboratory tests, at the southern edge of the site next to Buxton race track.

The research station is managed by the university’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, but is also home to Blastech Ltd, a spin-off company offering consultancy and commercial testing services to industry.

At the time of writing, planning permission was yet to be granted for the move, but university officers were targeting Sunday, May 22, for the start of work, to be completed by July 14.

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The entrance to one of the bunkers scheduled for demolition at the Harpur Hill research station.

The application said: “These bunkers are in a state of disrepair and are no longer needed. Further deterioration could result in a healthy and safety risk. The removal of the bunkers is considered the most appropriate solution.”

The main risk factor is the asbestos used in the bunkers’ walls, which will have to be removed by specialist contractors once the structures’ earth covering has been excavated.

The application suggests that the university has plans to redevelop that area of the site in future, but gives no further details. While the the walls, roof slab, other structural features, fixtures and fittings are to be removed, the plans say the reinforced concrete floor slabs will be retained.

Vehicles working on the demolition project would access the site via the Health & Safety Executive laboratory complex off Grinlow Road. While temporary security hoardings may be visible from a single lane farm road running past the site, the project is not expected to have any other bearing on the public.

The facility is said to offer a unique service in the UK, providing the opportunity for carrying out field-scale experiments of a hazardous or obtrusive nature.

Clients regularly use it to test ballistics and armour capabilities, with four indoor laboratories where precision tests can be carried out to assess the dynamic material properties and response of structures, in order to improve protection against explosions and impact from technological and natural hazards.

The university did not respond to requests for comment on the application.

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