The air-raid shelters found under Keighley's Victoria Park are to be preserved for future generations.

The site is to be sealed as a 'time capsule' of life in the town 60 years ago to allow historians to re-visit the shelter in its original state.

The shelter was unearthed by Bradford council workmen last week as they carried out tests on the site for a new ball court.

After speaking to the Ministry of Defence and West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, which are keen to see the site preserved, council recreation boss Barry Thorne has pledged the shelter will remain intact.

"We want to see part of the town's heritage preserved so anyone in future can learn more about Keighley in the Second World War," he says. "Before any work can begin on the site the archaeology service will record the shelter's details for researchers."

As the council guaranteed the site's future, opponents of the £30,000 ball court tried to buy the shelters, putting in a bid to the government.

"The remains of the shelters would be kept in a prime condition, the space above them would never be built upon and the rest of the grass in the park would remain sacrosanct," says home-rule campaigner David Samuels, who wrote to the MoD with gala chairman Brian Hudson.

Cllr Thorne says: "The government is not considering the bid to buy the shelter. The site will remain in public hands."

As the row over the court's future rumbled on, the council invited the Keighley News down into the shelter - the first visitors to the site in half a century.

Photographer Bob Smith and reporter Richard Hargreaves descended about three metres into the shelter which is buried under an artificial mound in the park and protected by a thick concrete slab roof.

Richard reports: "There is no large chamber, just a concrete maze which wends its way underneath the park for roughly 200 or so metres in a circle.

"Despite being sealed up for half a century, the shelter isn't in too bad condition. There's a bit of mud and rubble on the floor, possibly from an old entrance filled in, but the concrete walls and roof remain intact.

"That said, the 'facilities' are rather basic, and it's hard to imagine 500 people huddled together during an air raid.

"Any seats have been ripped out, as have the bomb-proof doors.

"There are no lights, no toilets - although there are a couple of alcoves which probably housed a basin - and thankfully no rats.

"Nor have Keighley's forebears left their mark on the shelter - no graffiti graces the damp walls."

The authority is to continue digging on the site to complete its survey. After that work on the football court will begin.

Officers believe the concrete structure will be able to support the court.

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