This is a petition against greed, inaction, cynicism and destructiveness caused by the Britannia Group in regard to the ‘Gateway’ to Manchester, the London Road Fire Station. For 27 years the site has stood unused under Britannia Hotels destructive ownership since 1986.
This English Heritage Listed II* decaying icon was placed on the National Historical Buildings At Risk Register in 1998. Standing opposite the main station for Manchester, this historic and exceptional architectural asset should become something iconic to represent this thriving City and its future. Instead its advertises to visitors decay and neglect, the very opposite image Manchester deserves to have.
Manchester must demand better and must overcome this injustice, before this unique National and world wide building of significance is lost forever.
Recent History of Case
Britannia made commitments to preserving and bringing this central iconic building back into use in order to avoid a Compulsory Purchase Order in June to November 2011. Those impassioned 'promises' have been shown to be yet again untrue.
In a letter to English Heritage in February 2012: 'Developing the scheme as it stands, would not be sustainable either in the current climate or the foreseeable future'. This is despite the pivotal defence it made for keeping the property being just a few months before relying on its vision and promise for redevelopment the CEO said he would personally fund.
Eric Pickles ruled in December 2012, the full costs of this expensive legal battle of 1.5 million to Britannia, despite none of the promises that the building would be fully developed by 2014 being truthful. To incur these costs for these 'broken promises' in a time of austerity, sets a precedent and a shameful legal legacy for Heritage Abuse and corporate liability for dishonesty, inaction and neglect.
Planning Permission expires in September 2013 and genuine hope is that there is no extension, allowances or renewal for Britannia. Historically they have been granted Planning Permissions for 'a hotel' in 1986, 1993, 2006 and 2010. None have been acted on.
Universally, the media, the local council and many commentators are shocked and disgusted by the appalling situation. Since 1986 there have been three major booms in the Manchester economy, yet the promises for a banal hotel have not been acted upon across these grand economic opportunities where other private organisations could and would have thrived. Sir Howard Bernstein wrote this open letter after the failing of the C.P.O. http://goo.gl/HWN3x (Via Manchester Confidential).
The point of this petition is to encourage the public to share and support a new CPO to go ahead and be approved, to save this building and bring it back into use. As a symbol, as a building of opportunity and vision, this company no longer deserves this Grade II* listed building, to neglect, damage and potentially destroy.
Unique Municipal British & Worldwide History
This was in fact much more than a fire station. It is a unique building and has been dubbed by some as the 'Finest Fire Station in this Round World' in 1902 (see http://goo.gl/RjlCt). It was originally conceived as a combined fire station, ambulance station, police station, gas-meter testing station, public library and gymnasium, though the last two were omitted to make room for a coroner's court and a bank. The Wikipedia entry on the building has a very clear block-diagram showing how these facilities were arranged. We hope to make enough funds to release a second edition of Bob Bonner's out of print book, named The Finest Fire Station in this Round World, (please see Manchester Evening New Article about the Trust).
Visions for the Future
In a questionnaire given to respondents in a meeting attended by 150 people, the vast majority of respondents believed this building should be more than just some 'banal' hotel.
This is why the Trust is releasing it's vision competition to all ages, primary school upwards, as a prelude before an architecture and business competition in the Autumn.
This building could be iconic and redeveloped with imagination and flare for our city and its visitors. As this award winning dissertation in 2010 by Emma Gander suggests, it could be a multi-purpose space combining private and public functions including an arts centre, museum, restaurant cafe, visitor centre, music venue, retail units, hotel, private flats and offices. http://www.presidentsmedals.com/Entry-12630# If A new CPO is successful at last, the public need involvement to make sure a visionary rather than lacklustre redevelopment occurs.
A comment left already in this petition expresses a sentiment I strongly agree with: "It has come to the point where only the people of Manchester can help this building by spreading the word. The public apathy - yet admiration of this building among Mancunains cannot continue - something has to be done for the good of this building a the city"
Please blog about this appalling situation, Boycott using Britannia Hotels, make widespread knowledge and send via email, facebook and twitter to everyone who cares about English Heritage and historical preservation! This disgusting situation must not continue!
WE MUST OVERCOME THIS TOXIC APATHY TO GAIN A NEW C.P.O.
THE TIME IS FAR OVERDUE FOR THE VISIONARY REDEVELOPMENT OF THIS IMPORTANT HISTORICAL BUILDING!
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
To read the disgust and general shock and incredulity please read about this situation online. See selected links in the links section.
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