‘Three decades of decay is a shocking waste’: Campaign to reject further delays on London Road Fire Station

By Rachel Buckley

After 27 years of neglect to London Road Fire Station, Manchester Council is being urged to reject Britannia Hotels’ application to extend its planning permission.

Britannia Hotels bought the Grade II listed building in 1986, and has obtained planning permission on three separate occasions, in 1986, 1993 and 2010. However no work was started and the building has been left to decay.

The company, which owns and operates 45 hotels across the UK, has now applied to the council for an extension of three more years ahead of proposed development work.

The Friends of London Road Fire Station, a recently founded community trust, believe the historic building should represent the thriving city and its future, rather than advertising neglect and decay.

They are urging the council to reject Britannia’s latest application, and have started a petition which currently has more than 3,200 signatures, with a goal of 4,000 signatures.

Emma Curtin, Chair of the Friends, said Britannia’s application presents an opportunity for them to raise awareness about the building and issues surrounding its recent history.

She said: “Given Britannia’s record it is difficult to have any enthusiasm for an extension of the 2010 planning permission.

“We do not have any expectation that Britannia will actually carry out the project.”

The Friends are also encouraging residents of Manchester to raise formal objections to it being granted, on the grounds that Britannia has so far failed to act on previous planning permissions.

They are holding a members’ meeting on October 9 to discuss Britannia Hotels’ application, at the Mechanics Institute, 103 Princess Street, from 7pm to 9pm.

The Friends hope to welcome Jess Steele at their meeting, who runs the nationwide neighbourhood transformation consultancy Jericho Road.

Jericho Road is already advising Save Ancoats Dispensary in Manchester, and has launched a national campaign to tackle delinquent ownership and long-term destructive mismanagement of heritage assets.

Jess said: “This is a critically important building and a terrible example of the impotence of the public and community sectors in the face of irresponsible private ownership.

“Three decades of decay and inaction is a shocking waste and it has to stop.

“It’s time Manchester City Council stood up for their heritage and their community.”

In 2011, Manchester City Council applied for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to buy the fire station, but lost the CPO inquiry after Britannia’s owner, Alex Langsam, insisted in a letter that work on the building would start ‘as soon as reasonably possible’.

The Friends are now urging the council to look to buy the building again.

A spokesman for Manchester City Council said: “We share the Friends of London Road’s strong desire to see this fine heritage building back in use and making a positive contribution to the regeneration of the area.

“It is a matter of great concern that the previous planning application has not been acted upon and we are determined to do all we can to encourage progress.

“Despite Britannia’s previous record, we are legally obliged to assess each application based on whether it meets planning guidelines.”

The consultation period for Britannia’s application to extend its planning permission remains open until October 22, and a date has yet to be set for the application extension to be heard by the council.

Picture courtesy of Larfin_out_loud via Flickr.

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