Bid to keep Museum of Fire in current home

CITY council leader Andrew Burns is to seek talks in a bid to keep the Museum of Fire in its present home at Lauriston Place.

Monday, 23rd May 2016, 8:18 am
Updated Monday, 23rd May 2016, 9:22 am
Fire museum representatives meet councillors Lesley Hinds and Cammy Day at the City Chambers. Picture: Jon Savage

Campaigners fighting to stop the sell-off of the old Central Fire Station, which houses the unique collection of old engines and other historic equipment, told councillors they hoped the building could be split, with the museum on the ground floor and the offices above converted into university accommodation.

The council’s policy and strategy committee agreed unanimously that Councillor Burns should hold talks with the chair of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), Pat Watters, to explore options for preserving the museum in its city-centre location.

The SFRS plans to sell off Lauriston Place – the last 
surviving Victorian fire station in the UK – as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

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It has said the museum will be relocated elsewhere in the city but the only proposal made so far is to transfer it to a much smaller space at McDonald Road fire station in Leith.

Richard Arnott, part of a deputation to the council from the Friends of the Museum of Fire, said the best solution seemed to be splitting the Lauriston Place building.

He said: “Edinburgh University is very interested in the upper floors and we could have the ground floor to run the museum.”

Mr Arnott said the museum could have a great future if the right decision was made.

He told councillors: “The fascination of fire engines is universal and we have an amazing story to tell. Coupled with Edinburgh’s visitor numbers and a central location, this should be an enterprise grasped with both hands.

“The Scottish Government are leaving the service to maintain the museum but without funding from them. The service has no desire or ability to put the museum on a sound financial footing.

“The former Strathclyde Fire Service were canny enough to separate their museum before nationalisation and now enjoy a healthy independent future.

“I think the present chief officer should consider retrospectively creating a similar set-up here in Edinburgh. I suggest that if the SFRS are not able to fulfil their promises, that the council assists us with a community takeover or buyout.”

Elaine Mycko, also from the Friends, said that despite a lack of advertising and no café or commercial shop, the museum had still attracted over 11,000 visitors over the last two years.

She said: “The volunteers think this could be so much more. If we were able to publicise the museum we could have many more visitors.”

The committee agreed a motion urging the SFRS to negotiate any sale of the building at Lauriston Place in a way that would allow the museum to remain in its current home.