Manchester’s iconic London Road Fire Station that has been ‘left to rot’ WILL be bought by the council for restoration on Monday, claim campaigners.
Friends of London Road Fire Station (FoLRFS) believe that the grade II*-listed building’s owners Britannia hotels will not have begun any redevelopment work on it.
The group have been campaigning for almost two years to get the former fire station, which has been owned by Britannia for 28 years, transformed out of its current decrepit state.
Next week will be a crucial week in the decision process, as Manchester City Council declared on October 1 that they will pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order on the building if Britannia do not redevelop the building within six weeks of that date.
FoLRFS have managed to get their petition to save the building, which is situated by Piccadilly Station, signed by 5,000 people.
FoLRFS spokeswoman Louise Bolotin, 53, told MM: “Time is running out for Britannia and we’re fairly confident that if they don’t do anything the council will go ahead and start the CPO. We’re crossing our fingers for that.
“The problem with Britannia is they don’t engage. They’ve got a policy of not engaging with the council, they won’t engage with the media, they won’t talk to us, basically they just blank everybody.”
The campaign has played a vital role in promoting the neglect of the building.
Ms Bolotin said: “My personal gut feeling is that the council will go through with the CPO because Britannia has not done any of the work that they promised after signing an agreement a few months ago.
“Britannia have done absolutely nothing, so that’s why they’ve got these last few days to stick to the signed agreement. It’s quite clear that they’re not going to do that because otherwise they would have started it a month ago.
“With the time running out for Britannia we just thought, right, we really need to up our game this week and get more people on the petition so that we can say that this is the strength of the public feeling.
“It would have just been status quo, with the council having its little closed-door conversations with Britannia to try and chivvy them along to actually do something if we hadn’t have pushed this so much.”
The building was originally a mix-use, public-serving building. Aside from being a police station, there was a coroner’s court, police station and the two top floors were housing for the firefighter’s families.
“Whatever happens to it once it actually does start being developed we do not want to see it being only a hotel. It’s an enormous site, the building is huge. There is room there for much, much more. I think the council will be really short-sighted if they just hand it over to a developer and say turn it into a hotel,” Ms Bolotin said.
FoLRFS have asked the public what they would like to see at the site, and their response has included a public garden space in the courtyard, a performing arts centre and small, local shops.
Ms Bolotin said: “We know that people go past and it and go,’ what an amazing building, what is it?’ They don’t really know what it is. I was like that when I first moved to Manchester. I fell in love with the building but I had absolutely no idea what it was until I went and did some research.
“I think it’s hugely embarrassing. We know that the council are embarrassed about it, they have said this repeatedly. It’s a crying shame that such an amazing building sitting right outside our busiest railway station is just sitting there, doing nothing, looking really, really shabby, falling apart. It is a disgrace actually that such a magnificent building is just sitting there being left to rot when it could be something really special.”
Britannia are currently using it as storage space, as there are Portocabins and containers inside. No one has been allowed inside the building, however, including the council.
A basic repair order was placed on the building by British Heritage around six years ago to try and force Britannia to allow air to circulate around the top floors, which suffer from damp and mould. As a result, in bad weather glass from the panes fell onto the pavement but the council did not press action.
Speaking in March, 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.”
Image courtesy of David, with thanks.