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Fire Station CPO begins

Argent and Park Plaza want site; Simon Binns reports from the town hall.

Written by . Published on April 13th 2011.

Fire Station CPO begins

The inquiry into Manchester City Council’s proposed CPO of the London Road fire station kicked off yesterday – with battle lines drawn early doors.

The inquiry, which is expected to last around a week, pits the council against the owners of the building, Britannia Hotels.

The arguments have been laid out before and my tweets from the meeting are below, which reveal some interesting thrusts and counter-thrusts - but the most newsworthy thing to come out of the town hall was the fact that the council has shortlisted two potential operators for the site if it does manage to wrest control of the building from Britannia – Argent and Park Plaza.

Another unknown fact emerged too – that the council demanded a £1m ‘performance bond’ from Britannia to try and ensure a proposed development timetable was stuck too – Britannia said it was opposed to signing any such agreement. The council also drew up another draft agreement allowing a three-month schedule slip in March, which was also rejected.

The inquiry was a curious thing – both sides facing each other from opposing tables, led by high-powered QCs. Britannia owner Alex Langsam was present, but not sat on his legal team’s table, preferring instead to take a seat with the gathered interested parties.

Council chief Sir Howard Bernstein gives evidence today – I’ll be live tweeting that @simonbinns from 9.30am – and the inquiry should wrap up next week, although it could be months until the Secretary of State makes a decision.

My early reading of it? The council has a valid point, but Britannia may just have them on a technicality over timings and the fact that selecting an alternative developer will cause greater delays. It’s also making a big thing of why it decided to embark on a CPO after Britannia applied for planning permission but before a determination had been reached – which later granted the hotel group permission.

It’s a cracking battle though. And it’s going to be a fight to the finish.

The tweets:

Manchester City Council’s opening argument:

Council claims after 25 years, leaving fire stations redevelopment to Britannia 'not in public interest'

Proximity to Mayfield, Piccadilly and corridor make fire station 'pivotal' to city

Fire stations redevelopment will encourage other sites to come on stream

128 jobs created if fire station redeveloped

Council want Britannia to commit to new development timetable, with 3 month delay allowed

'Perhaps in hindsight, MCC has been too tolerant of Britannia's procrastination...' ouch.

Britannia has told council they have £203m to spend on fire stn.

Britannia bought the London Road fire station for £525k in 1986...

Council confirms that partnership was offered with Argent in 2006, but Britannia rejected

Britannia Hotels’ opening argument:

Very aggressive comeback from Britannia. Claims council are 'exaggerating'

'it is simply hyperbole to imply the CPO is needed to stop the fire station from falling down'

Britannia has spent £800k maintaining the fire station

Britannia claims council have been trying to influence plans on fire station since 2004

NEWS! Two developers interested in Fire Station are...Argent and Park plaza

In fact, the council only had five tenders on the fire station

Council's intentions on fire station are 'no more than aspirations'

'No evidence redeveloped fire station will bring regeneration to Piccadilly...

...and no funding commitments from council'

Council has 'no developer, no operator, no scheme and wil inevitably create delay' on fire station

Britannia scalds Bernstein for 'Ill judged remarks' about the quality of their hotels...

...especially as they granted Britannia permission for 4-star hotel

Brit claim building has 'positive impact on character and appearance of area', even in current state

Britannia arguing the CPO and finding a new developer will take more time than their plans

Britannia also saying there are 'no clear funding intentions' from the council...

...and 'considerable uncertainty' regarding a future operator for the fire station

'it is the proposal and actions of MCC which will create delay and uncertainty'

Britannia questioning timing of CPO - after plans submitted but before determination

NEWS! Council demanded a £1m performance bond from Britannia...in 2010

Britannia claims CPO was 'calculated' to cause uncertainty to Britannia

Council CPO is 'the only obstacle' to fire stations redevelopment

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

J E SibberingApril 13th 2011.

Does anyone have any idea what Mr Slowly the owner REALLY intends to do with this fabulous building, apart from continuing to use it for storing cr@p from his hotels?

Eddy BondApril 13th 2011.

Can you elaborate of this 'performance bond' thing Simon? Was this paid from the council to Britannia or the other way round? Ive never heard of such a thing.

Ali McGowanApril 13th 2011.

It's a crying shame that such a lovely building, in a prime site next to our main station, has been left to rot. It's ridiculous. It's also amazing how much revenue has been forgone for all the years it's lain empty. Bonkers. Britannia will only want to cover it in fairy lights and create windowless bedrooms. Good luck to MCC.

AnonymousApril 15th 2011.

The whole thing is a JOKE! How the hell has MCC let this go on so long??? Its cost us tax payers a mint in fees. Grow a back bone and take the building of him. Can you not see he is just playing you?????

AnonymousApril 16th 2011.

Be interesting to know what the Secretary of State has to say...hope they make an example out of him about time this amateur was rumbled wonder if he'll turn up to the "Save Manchester Sure Start" (click "Like" on facebook)Forum meeting on Saturday 23rd April at the Friends Meeting House 1-3pm to explain why he thinks its a good idea to tender out kids services to the highest bidder??

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