Fire station closures – decision delayed

Laura White
Laura White

The all-important decision on the future of certain fire stations across the moor and in Devon and Somerset as a whole, has been delayed until January.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service announced earlier this year that they were looking into ways in which to streamline the service and maximise resources. They presented that certain stations were deemed as low risk/low activity, and the money would be better spent in community prevention.

Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said of the announcement: “‘I recognise these are controversial proposals and will create concern but we are trying to use the resources we have to improve public safety. We are investing in protection and prevention and are freeing up resources to make our on-call services more resilient. Money is a factor but this isn’t just about money – it is about more than that.

‘We are proposing to close a number of low risk, low activity stations, which are in close proximity to other fire stations. We have taken the view that these proposals to close low risk and low activity stations that attend very few numbers of incidents will mean our resources can be freed up better for prevention and protection.”

The meeting to consider the results of the consultation process carried out over the summer was originally planned for 18th December. Following a unanimous decision by Members last week, the meeting will now take place at 10am on Friday, 10th January 2020.

Members of staff and trade union representatives had raised concerns about the impact the decision may have on staff if made just before Christmas. During the 12-week consultation, the Service received about 3,300 completed surveys, 700 written submissions, and five petitions. Mel Stride also spoke up about the potential closure of Ashburton Fire Station, which would leave a number of villages at higher risk due to response times.

Mr Stride said: “While I understand the argument, I am very concerned about any loss of service in our constituency and would argue that although
rural areas may experience fewer incidents than more populated areas, help is often further away when needed. Ashburton, Crediton and
Okehampton are all important stations not just for the three towns but for dozens of smaller rural communities which surround them.”

Teignbridge Cllr Alison Eden said during the consultation: “Rural lives matter. The statistics being used to suggest we don’t need the service we currently have are bogus. I want an independent review of the proposals and I want the Conservative-controlled Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority to come clean about how many deaths they have decided are acceptable in order to save money.

“It’s a disgrace that yet again rural communities and small towns are being neglected. We have more housing, we have higher temperatures, and we have risks of fires on the moor.

“I am not happy  the risks being spelt out. Someone in an office somewhere has decided a certain number of deaths is okay, and that is not okay. How can we possibly roll the dice of people’s lives when fire can happen at any time? We are frightened as the proposals increase the risk of rural deaths – does anyone care?”

Stations under threat of closure or reduced appliances and personnel include Appledore, Ashburton, Okehampton, Tavistock, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Topsham and Woolacombe and Porlock in Somerset.

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