Britannia Hotels in spat with Manchester City Council over fire station site
A long-running feud between Britannia Hotels and Manchester City Council looks set to continue, despite the company's submission of a planning application to turn a listed former fire station into a four-star, 227-bedroom hotel.
Council leaders say they have earmarked £5m in the capital budget to make a compulsory purchase of the landmark property in London Road and resell it to another developer, as a result of the site being left to deteriorate since Britannia Hotels bought the building in 1993. English Heritage put the Grade II listed property on its Buildings at Risk register in 1999.
However, the council must now make a decision on the planning application by 31 August 2010.
Chief executive of Manchester City Council, Howard Bernstein, wrote in a report in December 2009 that the fire station site is "one of the biggest elements of blight in this area, and the city council and its partners believe that its harmful effect will soon start to be a significant impediment to further change in the area."
Britannia Hotels' chief executive Alex Langsam was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for the company said the submission of the planning application and spending of £500,000 on fees amounted to significant progress in the regeneration of the site.
"Hopefully it will demonstrate to the council our level of commitment to taking this project forward," he said. "We were disappointed when the council indicated that they were prepared to use CPO powers, because we are serious in our ambition to make this a flagship development."
Britannia has commissioned the design of the hotel to the Liverpool office of architect and historical building consultant Purcell Miller Tritton. Built in 1906, the property was once home to 40 firemen and includes a training tower.
A Manchester City Council report in December 2009 said that there was a shortfall in hotel accommodation in Manchester city centre and the fire station project would help this "pent-up demand".
If Britannia is granted permission to redevelop the fire station as a hotel, the property will join two other properties owned and operated by the company in the city centre - the 363-bedroom Britannia Manchester and the 223-bedroom Sachas hotel.
Britannia owns a total of 35 hotels, comprising 7,000 bedrooms, throughout the UK, including the renowned Adelphi hotel in Liverpool.
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By Janet Harmer
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