County to get new fire stations

By Danielle NuttallFIRE chiefs have insisted there is no threat of station closures as they unveiled a £14million project to build two new fire stations in the county and replace five others.

By Danielle Nuttall

FIRE chiefs have insisted there is no threat of station closures as they unveiled a £14million project to build two new fire stations in the county and replace five others.

The scheme was announced by Suffolk Fire Service yesterday and will see a new station built in south Lowestoft and another in the east Ipswich area, possibly Martlesham.

There will also be five new retained fire stations built in north Lowestoft, Hadleigh, Needham Market, Clare and Nayland to replace the existing premises that are either beyond repair or no longer suitable.

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The work will be funded through a private finance initiative scheme, where a selected company or a partnership of companies will build the stations and then Suffolk County Council will pay rent to them for the use of the premises.

Announcing the scheme, county councillor Peter Monk, portfolio holder for public protection, quelled fears the new buildings would make some neighbouring stations redundant.

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“There is no threat to fire stations. We know there was a concern from Woodbridge fire station if we had one at Martlesham,” he said.

“The reassurance must be that when we look several years ago, Needham and Nayland were threatened, but now we are looking at new fire stations for them.

“If we are going to maintain the extremely high service we currently provide to Suffolk residents, then we need to improve our fire stations and think seriously about where they are located.

“This private finance initiative addresses those issues. With the residential expansion of east of Ipswich and in south Lowestoft, we need to provide better cover. But this is not to the detriment of our existing stations.”

Possible sites for the new stations have already been identified - two in Martlesham for the east Ipswich station and the south Lowestoft relief road development for that town's station.

Both stations are being built to provide increased fire cover for the expanded residential and retail developments in the Kesgrave, Woodbridge and Martlesham areas, and new residential developments in Kessingland and south Lowestoft,

The new retained fire stations are likely to be built on their current sites, with the exception of Hadleigh where a possible new location in Lady Lane has been pinpointed.

Other stations, including the Princes Street and Colchester Road headquarters buildings in Ipswich, will undergo refurbishment work to update facilities.

Community amenities will be installed in selected stations, to make them more welcoming to the public, while the brigade's current training facility in Lowestoft will be transferred to Ipswich.

Ray Nowak, the council's portfolio holder for resources, said the private finance initiative was the most cost-effective way of funding the project.

“The alternative would be straightforwardly going to the council tax payer and putting that up substantially to cover it or leasing the buildings over a much longer period of time,” he added.

“We can attract significant levels of Government investment, which reduces the overall cost of the project to Suffolk council tax payers.”

The county council has placed an advert in the Official Journal of the European Union. From this, companies interested in the private finance initiative will bid for the contract and a shortlist will be drawn up.

It is hoped this time next year, project leaders will be in a position to make a recommendation as to which company has won the contract.

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