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 well over a quarter of a century the site has stood unused under Britannia Hotels ownership since 1986. This decaying icon was placed on English Heritage's Buildings At Risk Register in 1998 and was listed as a Grade II* building in 1974. This once majestic building should be a visionary (rather than shameful) gateway to Manchester and its architectural history. 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.
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 untrue as in February 2012, 3 months after pleading the CPO, Britannia had reconsidered its plans.
In a letter to English Heritage: '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.
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. It's the 27th year of failings and the resistance by the inactive and cynical CEO of Britannia Hotels, should no longer be allowed to continue.
Standing opposite the main station for Manchester, this exceptional building 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. It is time Manchester did not have to live with the consequences, implications and regretful decisions that have been so present in the ineffectual politics and bad business that have marred what should be a truly unique and exceptional building brought back into public use.
This was in fact much more than a fire station. It is a unique building and has been dubbed by some as the 'greatest fire station in the world' (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:
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.
In 2011 when Manchester City Council thought they had successfully made a Compulsory Purchase Order: At last everyone thought this debacle was over at last and something wonderful could happen in the redevelopment and the pride of this lost monumental building. Sir Howard Bernstein wrote this open letter after the failing of the C.P.O. http://goo.gl/HWN3x (Via Manchester Confidential).
The questions to why Communities Secretary Eric Pickles rejected this Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) application from the council for the former London Road Fire Station are unclear and are met with many political implications and concerns. Manchester can only decry the the decision to overturn the C.P.O on Britannia's now (yet again) empty promises to redevelop this building.
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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