Underground tunnel plan for stately home

UNDERGROUND tunnels and secret strong rooms may sound like something out of a James Bond movie. But a home owner in the tranquil west Suffolk countryside is seeking to extend the underground tunnel network beneath his Grade II listed home.

Laurence Cawley

UNDERGROUND tunnels and secret strong rooms may sound like something out of a James Bond movie.

But a home owner in the tranquil west Suffolk countryside is seeking to extend the underground tunnel network beneath his Grade II listed home.

Faleh Al-Rashidi, who owns Stanstead Hall, in Stanstead, has already been granted planning permission for an underground tunnel linking the main hall with a nearby barn.

Now he wants to build three new rooms - a wine store, a strong room and a services cupboard - below ground. They will be connected by the underground tunnel.

The Morton Partnership, acting as agents for the scheme, claims the development would have no impact on the look of the hall because it is all below ground.

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The strong room, the partnership says, will be used to house a safe and is necessary because Mr Al-Rashidi spends a “considerable time away”.

The application for the tunnel and the three underground rooms has now been lodged with the planning department of Babergh District Council.

In its statement to the council, a spokesman for The Morton Partnership said: “All proposed structures are to be beneath ground level, and therefore not visible externally.

“This means there will be no resultant effect on the character of the building. The proposed services cupboard is required for maintenance access to the services running between the main hall and the plant room. The proposed strong room is required for the concealment of a personal safe. The proposed wine store is required to be in close proximity to the main dining hall located in the main barn.”

Richard Kemp, county councillor for Stanstead, said: “It is something one would expect to see on television or in a James Bond film, not in the Suffolk countryside in the middle of a rural population. It is a big and important house.

“I don't think people have any objections to this as it is below ground. There have been planning issues in the village in the past but I don't think this is one of them.”

Mr Al-Rashidi was unavailable for comment on the planning application.

When it was listed by English Heritage in the 1970s, Stanstead Hall is described as a “16th to 17th Century red brick house”. However, the current building is an early 19th Century building south of where the earlier hall once stood. It underwent major modifications in the 1970s and has a number of outbuildings forming a courtyard group. It also has a substantial two-storey barn.