Revealed: Clerkenwell Fire Station to become temporary homeless shelter
PUBLISHED: 09:35 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:39 18 April 2019
The empty Clerkenwell fire station will be used as a homeless shelter and advice centre while talks continue to convert it into council homes, the Gazette can reveal.
The arrangement will include a homeless shelter with 20 beds on the upper floor of the Rosebery Avenue building, where firefighters once slept, while a coalition of agencies will run a day centre with “wraparound” care facilities downstairs.
Islington Council is still in talks with Sadiq Khan hoping to secure Greater London Authority funding to purchase the site, which is owned by the London Fire Commissioner, so it can be converted into “genuinely affordable homes”.
Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry told the Gazette: “I have been hugely dismayed these past five years not just by the closure of the station, but that it has sat empty and unused ever since, with the fire brigade still having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on its upkeep and security.
“So I warmly welcome the decision to re-open the station in the short-term for the benefit of some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and if in the long-term, it cannot be reopened as a fire station, I hope it will indeed be refurbished and turned into affordable housing, so it can benefit local residents in another way.”
Former mayor Boris Johnson closed the station as part of a widespread cost-cutting exercise in 2014 that also saw nine other bases axed.
Last year the Gazette revealed the staggering cost of upkeep on the empty building, which has since risen to more than £500,000.
A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “City Hall is working with the London Fire Commissioner and Islington Council to offer rough sleeping services in the meantime before the long-term development plans around the site are finalised and begin.”
A brigade spokesperson said: “It's important this iconic building is put to the best possible use, including considering how it could contribute to the mayor's plans for more affordable homes for Londoners.”
The cost of security since Clerkenwell closed in January 2014 to the end of December 2018 has been £453,314 with maintenance costs of £46,717, that takes the total to £500,031.
Islington's housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: “There is a massive homelessness and housing crisis in Islington and right across London and the key is engagement. This is a really exciting development – there are some brilliant groups out there and we look forward to working with them.”
Paul Embery, London rep for the Fire Brigade Union, said: “Broadly speaking our view is we believe Clerkenwell Fire Station should never been closed.
“With a growing population in London we cannot afford to close fire stations. There have been deep cuts in local fire cover in the Islington area over recent years and that places peoples' lives at risk.
“However, if that's not possible, we believe it should be used as a community asset rather than be sold off to rich business men and turned into luxury apartments.”
A homeless count in November found there were 43 people sleeping on Islington's streets.