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Plans unveiled for revamp of central Manchester building

Plans for the long-awaited revamp of the former London Road Fire Station building in central Manchester have been published by developer Allied London.

It wants to transform the Grade II-listed building with a major refurbishment plan that will include a new boutique hotel and spa in a newly-built wing, plus restaurants, bars, flats and offices. The central courtyard will be covered by a new glass prism, the basement will be opened up and there will a new private space that can be hired out for functions. Spaces currently used as studios by artists would continue to be used this way.

Planning permission has not yet been sought from Manchester City Council, but if it is granted for the multi-purpose redevelopment of the building, it will bring to a conclusion a long-running saga that had seen the grand structure in a prime central location lying idle and crumbling for decades.

The Edwardian building, which also once housed a coroner's court, was bought by Britannia Hotels in 1986 after its 80-year life as a fire station came to an end. The company applied for planning permission to convert it to a hotel that same year, but although this was granted nothing was done. Britannia then made further applications along the same lines in 2010 and 2013, while an unhappy local authority sought to make a compulsory purchase of the building amid concerns that Britannia would continue to leave it idle.

Eventually, a sale was pushed through, with Allied London acquiring the landmark site in 2015. The firm carried out a public consultation before producing its plans and it opened up the courtyard as a bar for a few weeks before Christmas last year.

The renovation work will have to be limited in scope because of the building's listing, and Allied London has stated that it will only make changes where necessary. This will include replacing some structurally suspect floors, and may also include new insulation to keep the building warm and meet modern environmental standards, and waterproofing work in the newly-accessible basements.

It is the latest major investment by Allied London in Manchester, but is on the other side of the city centre from its most prominent projects, which include the Spinningfields office complex and the St John's neighbourhood plans. The latter includes a scheme to redevelop the area around the old Granada Studios by the River Irwell with a new hotel, arts and performance centre and thousands of new apartments, with a series of skyscrapers including a 'vertical village'. At its centrepiece is a proposed residential tower of 778 ft in height, taller than the iconic One Canada Square tower at Canary Wharf in London. If built, it would make the reign of the 658 ft Owen Street Tower One - currently under construction - as Manchester's tallest building a short one.

The revival of the London Road Fire Station would represent a very different project to the newly-built steel and glass structures of Spinningfields and St John's. But it would also represent a prestigious development in a prime location, situated literally the width of a street away from Piccadilly railway station. All that remains now is for the planning permission to be sought and granted, at which point new insulation and other work will be carried out on what could become a development every bit as iconic as Manchester's plethora of new and forthcoming skyscrapers.


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