The future of Birmingham’s historic former Fire Service Headquarters remains unclear as the owners admitted that they had no plans to develop the listed site.
The building off Lancaster Circus was bought for £11m by Welsh developer Watkin Jones in 2007.
Since then the Bangor-based firm, which specialises in student accommodation, has failed to submit any plans with the city council.
The building was put up for sale in 2006 by the fire service who said it was “no longer suitable for evolved working practices”.
The Grade II listed building was subsequently sold unconditionally to Watkin Jones who reportedly planned to build an enormous residential glass tower centred on the courtyard of the triangular site.
A spokeswoman for Watkin Jones said: “We do own the site but there is no application in to develop the building. We are looking at various ideas and we are reviewing the options but there is no specific time scale.”
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council’s planning department, which worked for more than 18 months with the selling agent about possible uses, said no applications to develop the building had been made.
Birmingham historian Carl Chinn said: “We need to be very careful that historic and important city buildings, like this one, are not lost or mothballed.
“This is a superb structure and a really important civic building for Birmingham.
“But it will get more and more tired if it’s left empty and then a few years down the line we will be told that it’s structurally unsafe and that it needs to be pulled down.
“Birmingham has lost too many important buildings.
“It will be difficult for any developer in the current economic climate but the council needs to enter into constructive discussions with the owners.
“They need to engage with them about bringing this building into the wider plans for the city.
“We must not look at this building in isolation. It is an important part of our history. It was built in the inter-war years to shout out and to make a statement to the rest of the world.”
The building itself has several features of architectural interest, including the 12 original red fire station appliance bay doors, a clock tower over the main entrance and most of the interior rooms contain terrazzo floors and elaborate oak panelling.
Aston University had tried to buy the former HQ as part of its £175 million accommodation redevelopment plans but its bid fell well short.
The fire service used the monies from the site’s sale to contribute to the building of its administrative headquarters and fire control centre. The sale meant that the fire service did not need to borrow any money to build the new purpose-built premises at Vauxhall Road.