Sonia Hornery calls for old Wallsend Fire Station to be handed to Blue Gum Hills Men’s shed

Posted on 04/25/2020

IN DEMAND: There is a push to save the historic former Wallsend fire station from demolition, and give it a new life. Picture: Jonathan CarrollNearly a century of use has taken its toll on the former Wallsend fire station: the historic building is suffering froma number of “major issues” including asbestos and a leaking roof.

But it’s hoped it could rise from the ashes –and serve asa lifeline for the local men’s shed group –under a proposal put to the state government.

The building, on the corner of Devon and NelsonStreets,was vacated lastmonth as firefighters departed for swish newdigs on Summerhill Road.

A Fire and Rescue NSW spokesperson confirmed there were plans to auction off thebuilding before the end of this financial year.

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But Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery called on Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant to consider allowing the Blue Gum Hills Men’s Shed to move into the premises, to save the building from demolition.

“The old fire station building in Wallsend is part of its history and it would be a shame to see it sold off and knocked down,” she said.

“There has been some interest in re-purposing it by the local men’s shed group and I have written to the Minister to see if this is a possibility.

“It would be a win-win for the community, because the men’s shed would help restore it to its former glory.”

Use of the building would be a lifeline forthe blokes at Wallsend, who have been the men’s shed without a shed since 2012.

They currently meet at the greyhound racing track in Birmingham Gardens, but have been forced to pay $600 a month to keep their tools and equipment in storage.

The group hasjust had a development application approved to build a new shed on a parcel of council-owned land on Ganney Road, but are facing a major uphill battle financially to bring the plan to fruition.

“There’sjust been so many problems we’ve had to try and solve,” said president Roy Hart.

He said the fire station would give the men somewhere to operate and store their tools while they fundraised for the construction of the new building on Ganney Road.

“It’s going to take us six to 12 months to get the block ready,” he said.

“If we could use the fire station, that would save us $600 a monthand would give us time to fundraise and apply for grants.”

Mr Hart said the group was currently limited to performing yard mowing and maintenance jobs around the suburb, and the lack of a central hub meant there was nowhere for men to meet and form social connections.

“We’re meant to be somewhere men can come together and tinker or socialise and talk .. to get them out of the house and away from their wives,” he laughed.

“A lot of members would like to come and join but we haven’t got the facilities.”

When asked about the value of the fire station building, Colliers International director Matt Kearney said it was difficult to say with certainty because he had not inspected the premises.

“RP data shows an estimated value of $500,000. What that doesn’t take into account is market sentiment, the condition of the building, street appeal, those type of variables,” he said.

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He pointed out the old Hamilton Fire Station had far surpassed expectations when it was put to the market last year, selling for close to $2 million.

“We would see $500,000 as a conservative estimateand we would think it would be higher than that given the potential uses for the property, including commercial, residential and hospitality,” Mr Kearney said.

Some residents of Wallsend have called for the building to be converted into a police station for the suburb. But Ms Hornery said any new police station should be a modern, purpose-built facility.

“I know there has been a callto turn it into a police station, but given the issues with the building and its age it is not suitable.”