Sir Howard Bernstein’s open letter to fire station owner

Manchester City Council's chief executive has followed defeat over a compulsory purchase order for London Road Fire Station by issuing a public appeal to building owner Alex Langsam, head of Britannia Hotels, to begin renovation work.

Below is Bernstein's letter, dated 19/12/2011 and reproduced in full:

Dear Mr Langsam

London Road Fire Station

The publication of the Inquiry Inspector's Report following the CPO Inquiry underlines the importance of both of us to work constructively to ensure the re-development of this important building is brought forward as soon as possible. I am therefore writing to confirm my commitment and that of the City Council to this end, and to propose that we meet early in the New Year with our colleagues to discuss arrangements for achieving this objective.

I would propose that at this first meeting we discuss the following issues;

1. The discharge of planning conditions; at the Inquiry it was stated that your team were taking forward all of this work. There are a number of issues which need to be progressed including acoustic arrangements, the use of the roof space, the design of the roof and how it relates to the historic fabric and the restoration of the original features. It will be helpful at our meeting to understand what progress has been made on these issues, and what assistance we can provide to move these matters forward.

2. Full Timber and Damp Surveys; we recognise that you did not feel able to commit to this work but progress is essential for the discharge of planning conditions and the implementation of planning consents. Your master programme given in evidence during the Inquiry stated that the scope of these surveys would be agreed in consultation with the Council and English Heritage. We would like to take forward agreement on the detailed method of these surveys if only to ensure that the proposed works do not themselves require listed building consent. It would be helpful to discuss draft terms of reference at our meeting. If there was a prospect of your Conservation advisors meeting heritage specialists from the Council and English Heritage before our meeting to discuss the technical detail that would be even more helpful. Please let me know if you wish to do this and I will facilitate it.

3. Development Programme; it will be necessary of course to update the master programme which was presented to the Inquiry and which your company committed itself to deliver. It would be helpful to discuss at our meeting a revised timetable taking into account the 19 week delay in securing the Inspector's findings. This timetable should of course provide the basis for monitoring progress going forward.

I want to re-state that the Council's only objective here is to secure the implementation of the planning permission and listed building consent are implemented, and that a new Manchester hotel is developed to 4 star standard or equivalent as soon as possible. This objective mirrors your own statement to the Inquiry and we stand prepared to work hard with you to ensure these are achieved.

I look forward to your reply and to us meeting with English Heritage as soon as possible to move things forward.

You can read the full council documentation here.

Your Comments

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"I want to re-state that the Council’s only objective here is to secure the implementation of the planning permission and listed building consent are implemented, and that a new Manchester hotel is developed to 4 star standard or equivalent as soon as possible." I’m not sure you need an open letter to achieve that objective? The council’s stated objective would be more likely to be achieved by showing genuine intent to colloborate with Britannia in a constructive manner. They would appear more genuine by keeping their approach private. The objective of the open letter is all about political point scoring.

By Nick

He has left the former fire station in this poor state since 1985! how many more pushes does this man need to restore the building, no sympathy I’m afraid

By Lee

I agree – the Council been backed into a corner by a so-called developer who has not developed anything on this beautiful site for a quarter of a century! How about including a new Manchester Gallery in there now the one at the Art Gallery is closing….

By Charlie

Quick question… How many 4 star hotels do Brittania currently operate….. I dont believe they have any intension of redeveloping this manchester landmark. Having had the pleasure of walking around this fantastic building, I was saddened to see the building in such a state of dis-repair, and it being used as storage for all the tat that Brittania have hoarded over the years.

By Anonymous