18 December 2014
The merging of Upton and West Kirby fire stations on Merseyside, which will see the loss of 22 firefighter posts and £864,000 per year cut from the fire and rescue service’s budget, is being held up because local people cannot agree on a suitable site for a new station.
Dan Stephens, Chief Fire Officer for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We cannot leave the current fire stations as they are, because of the savings we have to make. As there is no option that can improve response performance, the option that would have the least impact on overall response times would be to build a new station at a central location.”
The two stations were originally going to be rehoused at a new £2.8m base in Greasby where the average response time to an incident would be six minutes 12 seconds compared to the current average response time of five minutes 24 seconds for incidents in the West Kirby area, and four minutes 34 seconds in the Upton area.
However, these plans were withdrawn after opposition from local people complaining about its unsuitability, the site being in the heart of the village. Attention has now turned to a new site on Saughall Massie Road, but this is also facing opposition because it is a Green Belt site. A brief consultation with residents has shown that 84% are against the proposal.
In October as Merseyside Fire Authority said that seven stations would be shut and three new ones opened.
At the time of that announcement, Dan Stephens, said: “Over the last four years, the service has had to make savings of £20 million as a result of cuts in our government grant. We now face further cuts of £6.3 million in 2015/16 and our expectation is that there will be more grant reductions in the following years.
“We are continuing to make significant savings in support services. We have already reduced the number of firefighters by almost half over the last decade and the number of wholetime crewed fire appliances has reduced from 42 to 28.
“As a result of the savings required for 2015/16, this number will need to reduce to 24, with the remaining four appliances crewed on a wholetime retained basis. We still have the same number of fire stations which is financially unsustainable.”
A spokesperson for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said: “The consultation process has only ever been concerned with seeking the views of the public on the reasonableness of closing two stations and building a new station at the most optimum location achievable to minimise the impact on response times. It is that on which the Fire and Rescue Authority will make a decision. Any other issues relate to planning matters and are out of the control of the Fire and Rescue Authority.”
A spokeswoman for Wirral council said: “There is a potential site in council ownership on Saughall Massie Road which the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has identified as meeting their requirements in terms of travel time, distances and size. If a formal approach is made by them for this site, then the council will have to consider formally its response to such a request. The site is in the Green Belt and therefore any planning application for development would need to demonstrate ‘very special circumstances’.”
More decisions will be taken following a fire authority meeting expected to take place on January 29 when the outcome of the authority’s consultation in Wirral will be discussed.
Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.