Historic Edinburgh fire museum put on open market

Campaigners protest against plans to close the Lauriston Place museum. Picture: Greg Macvean
Campaigners protest against plans to close the Lauriston Place museum. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Hopes of saving Edinburgh’s historic fire museum in its current home have received a setback after fire chiefs put the building up for sale on the open market.

It is understood the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had previously been in talks with Edinburgh University about the sale of the former Central Fire Station in Lauriston Place.

And campaigners fighting to save the museum and its unique collection of old fire engines and other artefacts had hoped it would be possible to retain it in the ground-floor engine room while the upper floors of the building were converted for student accommodation.

But they fear that placing the property on the open market makes such a scheme less likely. The Grade A-listed building – the last surviving example of a Victorian fire station in the UK – is being advertised as suitable for hotel or residential development.

The museum celebrates the Capital’s special place in the history of firefighting going back to James Braidwood, who founded the world’s first municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh in 1824.

But the SFRS is selling the building, which is part of the World Heritage Site, as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

Colin Fraser, one of the museum volunteers, said: “The SFRS did a feasibility study into dividing the building and claimed it would not work. But we got a sympathetic developer who said you could split it in two without any problem, then we could keep the museum in the engine room part.

“If they were looking at a hotel they would probably try to turn the engine room into a bar.”

Another volunteer guide, Elaine Mycko, said: “I feel gutted. This is my heritage, I feel so passionate about this place. I want to chain myself to railings like the suffragettes.

“We were promised at the start of this that the collection would not be mothballed but we would get a place in central Edinburgh where the collection would be on display. Now we’ve been told nowhere has been found.”

She believes the potential for developers is limited and said: “The engine room is A-listed, internally and externally, so whoever buys it can’t do anything with it.

“I’m hoping someone who is sympathetic to our cause buys the building and keeps the museum as it is.

“If we were allowed we could make this museum stand on its own feet and keep the collection for future generations.”

David Alexander of city estate agents DJ Alexander said there would be “big demand” for the building and estimated it could fetch £2-£4 million.

An SFRS spokesman said as a public body it had a duty to realise the best value for its properties on the open market.

He added: “We must reiterate that the museum is staying within the city. We are advancing plans that will deliver a new and exciting home for the museum within the Capital.”

The campaigners are still collecting signatures on their petition at Change.org.