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‘Fairy tale’ plan to keep Clerkenwell in public service unveiled

Sheila Scott (second left, back row) with Shelter from the Storm volunteers and service users Sheila Scott (second left, back row) with Shelter from the Storm volunteers and service users

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
4:36 PM

A “fairy tale” plan to drag empty Clerkenwell Fire Station back into public service and help society’s most vulnerable people has been unveiled.

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Sheila Scott, head of homeless charity Shelter from the Storm, in York Way, King’s Cross, wants the disused building to become a hub of activity for those in need - including temporary accommodation and a day centre.

Clerkenwell – the oldest purpose built fire station in Europe – closed amid emotional scenes in January as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, looked to slash £45million from the London Fire Authority budget.

Ms Scott said: “Stranger things have happened and it would be fantastic to keep it in the community.

“I know it’s a fairy tale, but I’m up for it. People do amazing things all the time and things are always impossible until you do them.

“Back in 2007 people said I wouldn’t be able to start this charity, but here we are housing 22 men and 18 women 365 days a year, with never an empty bed.

“I had to spend four years with no wages, and we relied entirely on volunteers until very recently, but we did it.”

The building, thought to be worth around £10million, has been on the market since last month year, with London Fire Bridage (LFB) holding open viewings. Rumours of bids by Russian oligarchs and community groups have yet to come to fruition.

“I haven’t got a straight answer about how much it would cost,” said Ms Scott. ”But the fact is these things are always doable.

“We are fighting a losing battle with the number of homeless we are dealing with. We are literally seeing teenagers having to sleep rough in parks and this would be wonderful way to keep in the community.

“We have a great record of getting people back into work, but then they need somewhere to stay and people on modest wages find it very difficult.

“As well as a whole host of other things, we could offer them very affordable rent at the fire station on a temporary basis.”

“All it would take is one of these rich Russians, or one of Islington’s wealthy residents to step in, and we could do it.

“We could be like the fourth emergency service.”

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