Updated: Wednesday, 1st July 2020 @ 4:56pm

Is London Road Fire Station being left to rot so it can be demolished? 'Nonsense', says Manchester council leader

Is London Road Fire Station being left to rot so it can be demolished? 'Nonsense', says Manchester council leader

| By Kenny Lomas

Claims that Manchester City Council want to see the beautiful but disused London Road Fire Station demolished have been dismissed as 'nonsense' by leader Sir Richard Leese.

London Road Fire Station has been neglected for 28 years – and a recent resident poll show people put the blame on Britannia Hotels and Manchester City Council. 

A survey conducted by the Friends of London Road Fire Station revealed that residents were unhappy over the future of the decaying building, which is owned by Britannia Hotels.

The fire station closed in 1986 and has been largely unused since despite several redevelopment proposals.

Of those who took part in the survey, 41% agreed the hotel chain displayed ‘destructive neglect for a developer’.

Close to 80% felt ‘concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ the fire station gave a negative impression to visitors to Manchester.

Opinion on Manchester City Council’s effectiveness in dealing with the or this Grade-II* listed building's development was equally damning.

The council has failed with two compulsory purchase orders on Britannia Hotels, one in 2001 and again in 2010.

Another 40% said the council’s strategy was ‘totally ineffective’, with 35% saying it was simply ‘ineffective’. Just 5% felt the council had been effective. 

Adam Prince, secretary of the Friends of London Road Fire Station, said they would continue to keep the matter in the public eye.

“This survey underlines what people have been saying to us during the last 12 months,” Prince said.

“People all over Manchester are fed up with Britannia Hotels and fed up with Manchester City Council’s seeming inability to do anything constructive to save this important building.

“The fire station is a key part of Manchester’s architectural and historical heritage and the rot needs to stop now.”

A large percentage of respondents, 88%, said they were disappointed with the council’s strategy since the failed CPO in 2010.

And 83% even expressed concern that four councilors on the planning committee had conflicts of interest and absented themselves from the hearing and that one had abstained from voting.

Respondents of the survey also expressed anger on the Council’s decision to extend Britannia’s planning permissions in December 2013 for a further three years.

Nearly 88% of respondents said they were ‘angry’ while just 5% were ‘comfortable’ with the decision.

In response to the survey, the leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, said the council are determined to bring the decaying building back to life.

"We share the Friends of London Road Fire Station's desire to see this fine building being brought back into use and making a positive contribution to the regeneration of the area, and it's a matter of serious concern that previous planning approvals have not been acted upon," he said.

"We are doing all we can to encourage progress and we remain in touch with the owners. 
"As the group is aware, we have spent many years trying to ensure this building is put into use and recently fought a battle with the current owners to acquire it via a compulsory purchase order on the basis of a clear plan to refurbish and reuse the building, but perplexingly Eric Pickles decided to find in Britannia's favour."

The council leader also dismissed notions the council wish to see the building knocked down.

"It is nonsense to suggest that we want to see the building demolished," he said.

"However, despite Britannia Hotels' failure to honour a commitment to the CPO inquiry to deliver the previous planning consent, we are legally obliged to assess each planning application based on whether it meets planning guidelines, which is why we had no choice other than to extend the planning permission." 

The Friends are now demanding a new CPO and have so far amassed nearly 4,000 signatures on their petition.

Those who took part in the survey were invited to comment, with some of the comments as damning as the figures themselves.

One respondent said: “Britannia Hotels should be fined, penalised and have the property forcibly removed from their possession.”

Another said: “The way [the fire station] has been allowed to deteriorate is a disgrace and lets Manchester down.”

One person even claimed that demolition has been on the cards since the beginning.

“Both Britannia and MCC want this building demolished. Sadly it looks like they will get their way, as the land in 10/20 years is worth too much. Its location will prove its downfall,” the comment said.

“The council has quietly been undermining the listing for years by slowly demolishing the Victorian architecture surrounding it.

“By doing this it makes it easier to persuade English Heritage in the future that London Road Fire Station is out of context with the then new buildings and demolition – due to [its] condition –  will be backed.”

Image courtesy of Adam Prince, via YouTube, with thanks.