Dany Cotton: My vision for a bright London Fire Brigade future in Lambeth

Dany Cotton: My vision for a bright London Fire Brigade future in Lambeth

I recently announced my retirement from London Fire Brigade after 32 years of service. Like all major milestones in a person’s life, this has been followed by a period of reflection as I look back over my career. But I also want to look ahead at what there is still to do to ensure I leave the Brigade with the very brightest of futures.

One key decision about that will be made at a future meeting of Lambeth Council’s planning committee, where councillors will decide the fate of an application to redevelop the London Fire Brigade’s former headquarters at 8 Albert Embankment.

The building is home to the current Lambeth Fire Station, but most of it has been disused since the Brigade’s headquarters moved to new offices in 2008. We want it to be transformed into a mixed use site with housing, retail, hotel and community use under joint plans submitted by ourselves and our development partner U+I.

As well as carefully restoring the existing listed building, the scheme will provide funding for both a complete transformation of the fire station and a permanent home for our museum, enabling us to protect not only the history of the London Fire Brigade but our place at the heart of Lambeth’s community too. It will also deliver 146 affordable homes as part of the wider mixed-use development of the site, which will create 417 homes in total, workspace to support over 1,250 jobs and a hotel.

Lambeth Fire Station is one of the busiest in London and is strategically located to respond to incidents in the borough and a wider area in the capital. Its refurbishment will include a brand new community room, allowing more public access to the fire station than ever before, and much-needed modern facilities for our firefighters.

There will be new resting and changing facilities to support a diverse workforce and bigger and better training space and equipment, including the existing listed drill tower, repurposed as a training facility. It will also trigger a host of other upgrades to fire stations across London, a third of which were built before 1940 and are in dire need of modernisation.

A new permanent home for our museum, which has been operating out of a temporary space on the site for the last three years, will finally allow us to expand on our already popular programme of school visits and educational activities, and to showcase some fantastic artefacts that, sadly, have for too long been out of public view.

The unique location of the museum will ensure a permanent link between old and new, with visitors able to see into an operational fire station as well as look at historic fire engines and other exhibits. The Brigade’s Memorial Hall, a monument to firefighters who have died in service since the 19th century, will be re-opened to the public for the first time in 10 years.

As exciting as this prospect of a new-look site on Albert Embankment is, the thought of it not going ahead is nerve-wracking. A decision by Lambeth Council to refuse planning permission would delay vital capital receipts and mean Lambeth and London-wide upgrades will be put on ice for several years. Very different plans put forward in 2011 were rejected.

My vision and ambition for the London Fire Brigade I will leave behind when I cease being its commissioner includes a modern fire station and an irreplaceable museum at the centre of Lambeth – and of London as a whole.

Dany Cotton joined the London Fire Brigade in 1988 and became its commissioner in 2017. Follow her on Twitter.

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Categories: Comment


  1. Melanie says:

    The plans at Albert Embankment are however still a slap in the face of the community who live there and have called the neighbourhood home for many years. The planned 26 and 24 story towers in a quite low-set village are evident if the developments aim for profit and nothing more, never mind insensitive they are abhorrent. This public-private partnership is a poorly thought through plan, essentially giving public property away for the forever-after private profiteering of a corporate company (only for the luxury apartments to be bought by wealthy foreigners who don’t even live here) and it is not the kind of development London needs. Stealing sunlight from neighboring buildings, ignoring Lambeth local planning, bullying the community and ignoring its needs as a living unit. #stopthetowers !

  2. Kate Hoey MP says:

    The Commissioner is promoting a deeply failed scheme which is even worse for the local community than the one rejected by Lambeth Council in 2011.No improvements have been made to the sun and daylight BRE ‘major adverse’ impacts on the 1930’s Council Estate right beside the development which failed Planning last time. These 24 and 26 storey towers will overwhelm the area. This time the Commissioner has failed to even meet local campaigners in the surrounding area. She thinks if this scheme passes she will be leaving a legacy for the Fire Service. On the contrary she will be leaving a legacy of indifference and indeed arrogance by public bodies riding roughshod over communities genuine concerns . The Fire Authority should be ashamed of their behaviour and no amount of window dressing articles can change that.

  3. Cllr Jon Davies says:

    You may well worry about the decision Lambeth will make in the autumn but refusing to engage with the local residents has not made things easier. There are certainly real benefits to this development, I have lived in the area long enough to remember threats that the fire station would close entirely, but the scale of the housing and commercial development behind the station is causing a lot of anxiety for local people. It is still not too late to come and meet them Dany. And well done on your brilliant career – you have been an inspiration to many. Cllr Jon Davies Princes Ward, Lambeth.

  4. Greg Cowling says:

    Is Dany Cotton aware of the significant backlash from the local community towards the plans being proposed for the former fire brigade site? It doesn’t seem so from the promotional comments for the development in this article. It may be worth engaging with the local community to gather their views which seem quite well thought through before steaming ahead in full support – despite the obvious commercial benefit the developers will be making available. Thoughts?

  5. H Brainch says:

    Perhaps one of the reasons for the long delays is the lack of real active listening by the planning applicant with the community and heeding or addressing their genuine concerns.
    Nobody doubts the vital role of the LFB and their genuine needs, but the surrounding community should not be sacrificed for what will be at best a short-term small uplift.
    Any consideration should be mindful of the fine balance between what would be the real long-term benefits compared to the significant costs to the whole community and the lasting negative legacy on the area.
    No community should have to suffer the significant loss of vital sunlight and daylight and other impacts on the area. The area is also designated by local planning policy as not suitable for residential tower blocks in a key industrial business area.
    The kind of luxury homes proposed to be built there will be at significant cost to the existing community, will not meet the needs of future Londoners with the wrong type of homes being built. The tower blocks will be unsustainable to live in the long term, due to their inherent high maintenance and refurbishment costs.

  6. Paul Ettlinger says:

    What a memory for
    Dany Cotton :

    She fails to mention that the london fire brigade allowed the grade 2 listed building at 8 albert embankment to deteriorate.

    She fails to mention the London Fire Brigade sold off their museum site at Southwark for redevelopment.

    She fails to mention that the redevelopment scheme proposed for the 8 Albert Embankment site is a departure application which I believe is totally against Lambeth’s Local Plan, does not respect the heritage nature of the site with the 2 grade 2 listed buildings lying within a conservation area and significantly causes loss of residential amenity to local residents causing a significant loss of light to all flats in the neighbouring Whitgift St of a major adverse nature and further loss of light to most surrounding properties even as far as
    9 Albert Embankment

    It is significant that Dany Cotton has chosen to discuss this project now when it is entirely probable that the Lambeth Planning Committee could refuse this application

    It should be noted that at the tender stage there were other applications and it is probable that one of these would have been more acceptable to all concerned, but the fire brigade accepted u and I s tender presumably for commercial gain .

    The local community are equally anxious to have this site redeveloped but in a sympathetic way which respects the significant historic nature of the site with its 2 grade 2 listed buildings (This is the only building left on the South Bank which heralds from the 1930s it was opened by the late king George and the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother and was at the time the most significant fire headquarters in the world ),and also respects Lambeth’s local plan,
    and the residential amenity of local residents

    Dany Cotton and the Fire Brigade have been very reluctant to meet with local residents and it became clear that any concerns expressed by local residents pre tender have been largely ignored

    This proposed redevelopment is far worse than the previous scheme, which was rejected.

    The Lambeth planning department must respect its own Lambeth local plan, the heritage nature of the site and the residential amenity of the local community and refuse this application.

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