Fire station closure at Wrentham would add ‘unnecessary risk’

Wrentham Fire Station.

Wrentham Fire Station. - Credit: James Bass

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has made a U-turn over proposals to close a fire station in her constituency after meeting its firefighters and investigating their concerns.

Dr Coffey had earlier said she would not oppose the closure of Wrentham fire station – but now she says Suffolk County Council should reconsider the move.

The council, which has proposed shutting the station as part of a package of changes, says it needs to save £1.34million by April 2018. It believes the closure of Wrentham will still leave the area with adequate fire cover.

Dr Coffey visited the fire station to meet the retained firefighters, station comander and district commander, and received data on call-outs the crews had attended, which included emergencies outside the station’s area, particularly in the Reydon and Southwold area when there were not enough firefighters available to man an appliance.

Dr Coffey said: “One of the reasons offered is the savings that would be made. Not unreasonably, the crew are quite keen to continue to be retained firefighters and question the savings figure cited as they would continue to receive payment when on call at other stations.

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“The crew also queried why the station needed capital spent on it of the order of magnitude suggested.

“Undoubtedly the move of the station south of Lowestoft crossing has helped provide cover in north Suffolk. However, the response times by the service have declined in terms of performance in reaching incidents within 11 minutes – the target set itself by the county.

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“As such, I do think it is appropriate for the council to reconsider this closure. This is particularly true in light of the lack of availability of crews in other stations, who are not to be impacted by this review.

“At the very least, the council should consider the closure of Wrentham when and only when there is a consistent higher availability of crews at nearby stations. To do so otherwise would add unnecessary risk for a limited saving.”

The county fire and rescue service says if Wrentham closes its calls would be covered by the next nearest fire stations – there are four stations, with six fire engines, one is full-time and five on-call, within 10 miles. The nearest of these is Reydon and Southwold at 3.4 miles, while Lowestoft South can reach Wrentham in less than 10 minutes.

The service says its package of proposed changes is challenging but will ensure the service is effective and efficient in providing a balance of prevention, protection and emergency response services.

Officers are currently analysing feedback following recent consultation and a full report will be presented to cabinet on May 17.

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