Guest Post – A Brighter Future? Public Debate on the future of the London Road Fire Station

Posted by Jake Causier, over 4 years ago

It’s a busy week for Friends of London Road Fire Station as the team gears up for their most important event yet: A Question Time style panel debate to bring together public questions and expert opinions on the future of the London road fire station.

Set up in 2013 following a packed public meeting, the Friends is a community trust focussed on bringing the grade II* listed Fire Station back into positive use.


This striking building opposite Piccadilly station has been the focus of controversy for decades. Britannia who own the site have left it undeveloped since the 1980s. In 2010 Manchester Council tried and failed to use its powers of compulsory purchase to force the building back in to use. Plans were underway to try again this year but in April the building finally went on the market after 30 years.

In this changing situation the Friends have worked hard scrutinising council policy and carrying out public consultation. You may have come across their stall or completed their online survey along with +400 others.

For many years the building was a hive of activity, home to various functions including the fire station, coroners court and family apartments. The group’s research has uncovered some lovely stories from children living there in the 1920s through to trainees getting up to hijinks in the 1960s. All these memories and the building’s prominent location contribute to the sense of civic pride surrounding the place.

Alongside their local campaign the group is a demonstrator project in the national Community Assets in Difficult Ownership programme. This links them with groups around the country and expert advice. Working together they share best practice and review the policy related to historic buildings where the owners present an obstacle to development.

Advocating the positive reuse of the building, the Friends committee has met with other stakeholders including the Piccadilly Partnership and English Heritage.

Such relationships have enabled the group to team up with Liverpool School of Architecture; bringing together a range of panelists including Dave Roscoe who has been inside the building recently on behalf of the council; and Bob Bonner historian of the building who also worked there as a fire officer. Trevor MacFarlane brings a different angle in his role as Culture Manager in the European Parliament with a focus on the North West of England. Ray Makin from the Chamber of Commerce and Mark Watson from the Victorian Society are both on the Manchester Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas Panel and have been involved in discussions about the building for years. Emma Curtin, local architect and lecturer will represent the Friends, while Jess Steele, who established the Community Assets in Difficult Ownership programme, brings a national perspective to the discussion. She was also involved in the successful Compulsory Purchase of Hastings Pier which is now run by the community.

This inter-disciplinary panel will be chaired by Jonathan Scofield, editor of Manchester Confidential. He has been reporting on the Fire Station for many years and knows all the twists and turns of the story. Known for his strong and heartfelt views about Manchester, the acclaimed tour guide and experienced broadcaster certainly won’t skirt around difficult issues. He is expected to lead a lively and informative discussion.

The debate is open to the public and anyone interested is encouraged to attend whether to observe or participate. There will be questions from the audience. It should be an interesting evening and there will be a bar and birthday cake!

Wed 1st July, bar opens 6pm, debate at 7pm – 9pm.

The Mechanics Institute, 103 Princess Street, M1 6DD

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