THE sale of Edinburgh’s historic Central Fire Station – former home to the city’s Museum of Fire – netted £8 million for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
The building in Lauriston Place, the last surviving Victorian fire station in the UK, was sold to Edinburgh University at the end of last year and is now to become part of the city’s College of Art.
Detailed plans have yet to be revealed, but a “sympathetic refurbishment, sensitive to its past use and heritage” is being promised.
The sale price – announced by law firm Shoosmiths, which advised on the sale – is higher than many had expected, but it is understood all the cash will just go into the general coffers of the Scotland-wide fire service to help meet a Scottish Government spending squeeze.
The College of Art is said to have been keen to acquiring the next-door fire station for many years and it is understood negotiations took place between the university and the fire service before the building was put on the open market in July last year.
Eighteen offers were then received but the university was announced as the preferred bidder at the end of September and the building was handed over in the middle of December.
The sale went ahead despite a hard-fought campaign to save the Museum of Fire, which celebrated Edinburgh’s unique role as home of the world’s first municipal fire brigade in 1824.
Museum supporters lobbied ministers, collected 5000 names on a petition to save it and appealed to Nicola Sturgeon to intervene and stop the sale. But it was forced to close at the end of October with just a few days’ notice.
The fire service plans to carry out alterations at McDonald Road fire station, off Leith Walk, to create a new base for the museum there, but no date has been set.
The museum collection, which includes several vintage fire engines and other artefacts dating back nearly 200 years, has now been put into storage at the former Central Fire Brigade headquarters at Maddiston, near Falkirk.
Susan Grant, from the Friends of the Museum, said £8m seemed “a good price”.
She said: “It would be interesting to know how the fire service is going to be reinvesting that money. And is there any update on plans for putting the collection into the new Museum of Fire at McDonald Road?
“There has been no information about that. When can we expect to see the new relocated museum open to the public?”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “This capital receipt is part of the funding package programme for the current financial year.”