No more games: Britannia’s 11th hour decision on London Road Fire Station leaves campaigners ‘flabbergasted’

Campaigners for the London Road Fire Station have been left ‘flabbergasted’ by Britannia Hotel’s 11th hour request to work with Manchester City Council to redevelop the derelict grade II*-listed building.

Council chiefs warned the hotel chain that if they didn’t provide plans to redevelop the building, they would pursue a compulsory purchase order (CPO).

A letter emerged with just hours to spare before the decision deadline, addressed to Council Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein from Britannia Hotel’s chief financial director Robert Ferrari.

It revealed that the hotel was agreeing to sign the development agreement with the council.

The news was a massive blow to the Friends of London Road Fire Station who believe the last minute decision is a ploy to stall any potential regeneration work.

Secretary Adam Prince told MM: “We’ve had lots and lots of support on Twitter with people saying it’s a scandalous tactic to try to stall the process.

“There was clearly a legal document stipulated by the council asking for a development agreement to address the plans today.

“And they clearly hadn’t responded to the actual legal doc that required to be used.

“So it can only be seen that they haven’t actually agreed to support the council or make that commit to re develop as we expected so anything that has been seen in this letter should be taken as deeply untrue.”

Emma Curtin, chair of the Friends, said: “This 11th hour move by Britannia demonstrates yet again that they will do anything to delay starting work on developing the building. It is a cynical attempt to stall a CPO by the council and renege yet again on their promises.

“A CPO is the move we have been hoping for. Manchester City Council were generous to give Britannia a final six weeks to start making good on its promise to begin restoration and redevelopment of the building. Britannia has failed to do so despite 28 years of opportunity and it is clear they never will. The time has come for positive action.

“We await Manchester City Council’s official response to Britannia Hotels with interest. It is our understanding that Britannia’s letter is not legally binding and we hope the council will not be seduced into thinking that Britannia will this time finally start work on the building.”

Last week, FoLRFS were convinced that the nation wide hotel chain would fail in its request to adhere to the signed agreement however Ferrari’s letter surprisingly stated otherwise.

He wrote: “To the end, we are happy to enter into developmental agreement with the council’s co-operations.

“Can I suggest that you propose a range of items that you would like to see included in the development agreement and we can hopefully work together.”

In response to the unexpected turn of events, Adam Prince promptly wrote to both Sir Howard Bernstein and Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese.

His letter read: “The response to this news has been dismay throughout social media.

“Clearly Britannia did not sign your very specific legal documentation about the redevelopment terms and as such I believe this can only be seen as an attempt of stalling the process at the last minute.  

“They have had so many opportunities and have acted on none, which is inexcusable.

“Manchester has been down this road far too many times and we must all stand together in this city to see this insidious influence go from the Fire Station and the countless million pounds worth of damage they have already caused since 1986.”

Mr Prince remained vigilant in his plea to the council chiefs — asking them not to be ‘deterred’ by the hotel’s ‘tactic’ and that the chain’s recent title of the UK’s ‘worst hotel’ wasn’t a good look for the historical building.

He wrote: “Please continue with the CPO process and do not be deterred from this tactic from the UK’s Worst Hotel chain that is so undeserving of this Heritage Icon they have deprived Manchester of and abused to its At Risk tipping point status.

“Please be aware the public support must be harnessed and can be worked with, in a dialogue of mutual value, interest and the capacity to be united against this company for the best redevelopment revival we can make for this invaluable piece of English Heritage.”

“This is the last chance for Manchester to save this Icon, so please monitor it carefully, put safeguards and strategies in place to make the Icon secure and we hope that on behalf of all our signatories and members, and for anyone else yet to support the campaign, that we all can work in unity for this CPO.

When speaking to MM, Adam spoke of his concerns over the safeguarding of Manchester landmark that was once home to a police station, coroner’s court and housing for the families of firefighters.

He said: “I wrote a letter on Friday, to which I’ve had no response, saying that the site urgently needs CCTV monitoring around the building and it urgently need some sort of a fire safety strategy.

“It’s just the annoyance that 28 years in, they’re still trying to play games with the city and it’s just not good enough.

“We’re expecting them to appeal if another CPO goes through we’ve also asked for urgent safe guarding of the building since the campaign but that hasn’t transpired with the council. I think it’s something that really needs to be looked at urgently.”

Image courtesy of Mikey, with thanks. 

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