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Manchester Council should press for prompt redevelopment of former fire station

Manchester Council should work with Britannia Hotels to ensure that the Grade-II*-listed London Road fire station, which has laid largely empty since 1986, is repaired and brought back into use within a strict time frame.

London Road Fire Station, Manchester

The Victorian Society is urging Manchester Council to work with Britannia Hotels to ensure that the Grade-II*-listed London Road fire station, which has laid largely empty since 1986, is repaired and brought back into use within a strict time frame. The society welcomes the Council’s willingness to issue a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) if necessary, and stresses that the Council should be wary of negotiation with Britannia Hotels dragging on indefinitely – action is needed in the immediate future to prevent further deterioration of what has been described as one ‘the most interesting historic fire stations in the world'.

In October, Manchester City Council stated it would compulsory purchase London Road Fire Station if the owners Britannia Hotels did not agree to enter into a written agreement to covert the building into a hotel by Monday 17 November. At the 11th hour Britannia Hotels stated that it would enter a ‘development agreement’ with Manchester Council. The Victorian Society urges Manchester City Council to proceed with a CPO if necessary after allowing a reasonable period to explore Britannia’s willingness and ability to bring the fire station back into use promptly.

Victorian Society Conservation Advisor, James Hughes, said: ‘London Road Fire Station’s slow decay over the 28 years it has been owned by Britannia Hotels is depressing to say the least. This landmark, Grade II*-listed Edwardian building should be at the heart of the community and driving regeneration rather than slowly rotting. Manchester Council must work with Britannia Hotels to ensure that prompt remedial action is taken to prevent any further decay.  However, given the history of the case, the Council should be wary of negotiation over precise terms dragging on indefinitely – action is needed in the immediate future’.  

Manchester’s London Road Fire Station once housed a police station and a coroner's court, as well as around 40 Firemen’s flats. Following the fire station’s closure in 1986, the building has been largely unused. Owners, Britannia Hotels,  have failed to redevelop the building as a hotel and, as a result, decades of underuse mean the fire station is now in a very poor condition and in urgent need of repair.

In 2010 the Victorian Society gave a cautious welcome to plans to convert the Grade-II* listed building into a luxury hotel. However, building work did not begin and the Council decided to compulsory purchase London Road Fire Station. At a public inquiry, the case for a CPO was rejected by the Secretary of State as the urgency of securing the regeneration benefits had not been made out and that the redevelopment of the building would be ‘more likely to come forward under Britannia’s auspices than the Council’s’. 

Wednesday 19 November, 2014

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