Manchester City Council is seeking a partner to develop a former fire station in the Piccadilly area of the city as a four-star hotel, alongside applying for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to buy the Grade II-listed building from Britannia Hotels.
The London Road Fire Station has been owned by Britannia Hotels - which owns and managers 36 properties across the UK - since 1986.
Despite having obtained planning permission on three separate occasions - in 1986, 1993 and most recently in September 2010 - to transform the iconic building into a four-star, 227-bedroom hotel, building work has never started.
Having now lost patience with Britannia Hotels, the city council want to have a development partner in place to go ahead with the renovation of the building should they be successful in obtaining a CPO. A decision on the CPO is expected by the Government in late spring 2011.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "This is an iconic building in a gateway site but has been allowed to fall into disrepair and become an eyesore rather than an asset.
"London Road Fire Station is on English Heritage's buildings at risk register and we are determined to bring it back into appropriate use, so it can make a positive contribution to the regeneration of the Piccadilly area, as soon as possible.
"While the current owners have obtained planning permission to convert the former fire station into a hotel, the council is yet to be satisfied that there is any guarantee this will be implemented."
Alex Langsam, the owner and chief executive of Britannia Hotels, said that it is a "disgrace" that the council was taking this action. "For the past six-and-a-half years they have effectively put every obstacle in the way to prevent us getting the planning permission, which we eventually obtained in September. And it has cost us around £750,000 in architect's fees in doing so."
Langsam denied that the building was dilapidated and in recent years has been used as a depot to store furniture for the company's other hotels and accommodate its buildings division.
"We have not developed the building any earlier because the surrounding area has been like a bombsite, and we couldn't open a hotel until the area was regenerated."
Langsam said that his company is currently working on the building regulations element of the development and talking to builders about starting the renovation work.
He added: "Why doesn't the council withdraw the CPO and save the local authority an awful lot of money and allow us to get on with transforming the building into a hotel?"
By Janet Harmer
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