THE historic fire station housing the Museum of Fire in Lauriston Place is to be sold to Edinburgh University to become part of an arts hub.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) announced the university was the preferred bidder for the former Central Fire Station and is expected to take possession at the beginning of next year.
In a statement, it said: “The building will undergo a sympathetic refurbishment, sensitive to its past use and heritage, before forming part of the Edinburgh College of Art’s ambitious plans to transform the area into a hub for arts and culture.”
The SFRS said the museum would move to a new purpose-built location within the city.
But campaigners fighting to save the museum said they will now approach the university to see if they can agree a plan to keep it open on the ground floor at Lauriston Place – which is the last surviving example of a Victorian fire station in the UK – while the rest of the building is developed.
The museum has a unique collection of vintage fire engines and other artefacts. It celebrates Edinburgh’s role as home of the first municipal fire brigade, founded in 1824.
Susan Grant, of the Friends of the Museum of Fire, said: “We would hope the university would meet with us to put together a plan so we can retain the Museum of Fire in the pump house and find a way of meeting the requirements of the university while also maintaining this historic collection in its rightful home.”
The Friends has asked for the sale of the property to be put on hold to give them time to form a trust.
Sarah O’Donnell, director of finance and contractual services for the SFRS, said: “We are delighted that this important building will transfer to the care of the University of Edinburgh.
“They share our understanding of the building’s past and will ensure it remains an important part of Edinburgh’s heritage long into the future.”
But Lothian Tory MSP Gordon Lindhurst, who tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament to save the museum, said: “I am saddened to hear the Central Fire Station is to be sold off, without confirmation of definitive plans to keep the museum on the ground floor while developing the space above it. This could present a viable option and I will continue to press the point.”
Stuart Bennett, acting principal of Edinburgh College of Art, said: “We are very pleased to have been selected as the preferred bidder and look forward to breathing new life into this iconic building. We will now begin the process of planning for a sympathetic refurbishment that can fulfil its potential as part of a world class college of art, of which Edinburgh can be proud.”
The university said its plans for the building were at “an early stage” but insisted it did not intend to use it for student accommodation.
The university said it could not comment on the idea of keeping the museum in its current home.