DEMOLITION of Sheffield's fire station on Wellington Street, which is barely two decades old, has begun as part of the forthcoming £600m Sevenstone retail scheme.
The building has been empty since South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service moved into its new state-of-the-art premises on Eyre Street in the city centre earlier this year.
Built in the 1980s, the red brick building is being knocked down to make way for the new retail quarter development, which will see 110 shops, 232 homes and up to 2,200 parking spaces being built in an area between Barkers Pool and Moorhead.
A new John Lewis department store to replace the existing store in Barkers Pool will be built on the site of the old fire station.
Coun Colin Ross, cabinet member for employment, enterprise and development at Sheffield Council, said: "The fact that the building is being demolished marks the continued progress in getting the site and plans ready ahead of the economic upturn.
"It is vital that the building comes down before the end of the financial year so that we can access external funding to carry out the work."
The demolition is being funded by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
Planning permission has already been granted for the fire station site to be used as a temporary car park before work on the new John Lewis store and multi-storey car park gets under way.
The plans are for a temporary surface car park with capacity for 228 cars, including seven disabled spaces.
The new car park will also help Sheffield Council reach its target of 9,500 short-stay parking spaces in the city centre by 2012. At present, there are just 7,585 spaces available.
However, some opposition has been received to the plans to bulldoze the fire station.
A group on the Facebook social networking site called "Stop the Demolition of Sheffield's (not so) old Fire Station" has been set up by Rupert Wood, who said the red brick fire station has "an imposing, castle-like look in the city centre."
Members of the Facebook group have suggested that, instead of being knocked down, the old fire station building should have been turned into an arts centre or interim housing for the homeless.