Since the recent decision by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) to close Manchester Square Fire Station the residents of Marylebone are looking at the prospects of re-opening the station with a privately-funded Marylebone Fire Brigade.
The idea is one which may seem difficult to imagine coming to fruition but there are major organisations in the vicinity as well as large retail stores which understandably view the closure of Manchester Square’s station with great concern.
Last week there was a report that it took 16 minutes for the fire brigade to reach Selfridges from Soho, the next nearest fire station, last week. To get there the engines had to go north from Soho first and round the traffic in Oxford St before coming back down Baker Street. It is clear to all of us residents in central London that the traffic is regularly at a standstill around that part of the West End, making life very difficult for emergency vehicles. For many there is now a great deal of anxiety at the prospect of waiting for vehicles from Soho, Euston or Paddington to arrive in reasonable time and it is this fear that is driving the concept of re-establishing a station operation in Manchester Square albeit with private funding.
As the local MP for the area I am also very well aware of the expected increase in the number of residents in Marylebone over the next years caused by several office buildings being converted into residential homes, including some parts of the old Marks and Spencer HQ in Baker Street as well as the local London Electricity Board offices and the Telephone Exchange.
Added to these considerations, there are many buildings where the population is transient, like the public house next to the Fire Station where staff and visitors are sporadically crammed into dormitories. Manchester Street has a sizeable component of student accommodation and the old M&S hostel in the same street will probably be used in the future for the same kind of population. This is just an example of what the area is like as a whole. There are also many elderly and disabled people to consider.
In early June an underground electrical explosion off Baker Street brought six appliances from Soho, Euston and Paddington into the area which would previously been dealt with by the local station. Baker Street Station is regularly flooded and for the residents it seems that someone has not done their homework on the area.
At a time when we are constantly being told by the Metropolitan Police and the government that a terrorist attack in central London is imminent, the decision by the LFEPA flies in the face of such alarms.
Marylebone is a vibrant village in central London. The loss of Manchester Square’s fire station is the same as removing such a station operation from a market town in England. The advantage which Marylebone has in the possibility of creating a privately funded fire brigade is the financial muscle of the businesses in its area. We shall see and I wish them the best of luck.