After the meeting to discuss the future of Devon’s fire stations was delayed, members of the Fire Authority met on 10th January to hear the recommendations from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS).
It currently appears that Ashburton Fire Station, our most moorland-central station, is to be saved from the axe.
During a public consultation exercise held last year which was
made up of 27 drop-in sessions, the service recorded that events were attended by nearly 2,000 people. In total, 3,818 responses were received: 3,232 completed questionnaires, 205 written submissions and 381 email responses. In addition, five petitions were submitted with a total of 43,644 signatures.
The Fire Brigade Union were also involved in the meeting and it was recorded that they had responded to an original statement in the ‘Safer Together’ plan which said; ‘We have too many fire engines and staff in areas where risks are low, and demand has fallen.’
The FBU responded to this by saying; “[The FBU] feels that DSFRS has failed to recognise that a fall in demand does not mean there is a drop in risk, which is still there and needs to be planned for.”
The union also describes DSFRS’s Analytical Comparison of Community Impacts: Service Delivery Operating Model (SDOM) as “flawed and misleading from the start” as it has “clearly been produced to show a ‘best-case scenario’ to lower risk even when stations are being closed, appliances being removed or cut”.
Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer, said: “Last summer we consulted on a number of options for change. After reflecting on staff suggestions,
public feedback and considering how we need to improve the
efficiency and effectiveness of the Service, we have recommended a balanced set of proposals for consideration by the Fire Authority.”
The report from the meeting states: “Feedback from the consultation responses has allowed the Service to re-shape an alternative proposal for the Service Delivery Operating Model under ‘Option 7 – Mix and Match’.” The changes that the Service is recommending for approval by the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue
Authority are to:
- Defer the decision to implement day crewing at Barnstaple,
Exmouth and Paignton subject to a revised 24/7 crewing model
being agreed with the Fire Brigades Union, including roving
appliances, before the end of the 19/20 financial year.
- Close Budleigh Salterton fire station and allow affected
firefighters to respond from Exmouth fire station.
- Relocate Topsham fire station to Service Headquarters (Clyst St
George) and relocate one of the fire engines to Middlemoor fire
station (both fire engines to be relocated to Service Headquarters
until an on-call crew can be established at Middlemoor).
- Remove the third fire engines from Bridgwater, Taunton,
Torquay and Yeovil.
- Remove the second fire engines from Crediton, Lynton, Martock
- Introduce variable fire engine availability dependent on risk
Lee Howell continued: “We are presenting a significant investment in our ‘on call’ staff which will directly improve the availability of our fire engines. At the same time, we are suggesting closure of one fire station (Budleigh Salterton), relocation of another (Topsham) as well as removal of a number of low activity fire engines. Importantly, we are confident that we can secure alternative ways of working with our whole time staff which will allow us to undertake significantly more prevention and protection activity which will also make communities safer.”
Comments on the Ashburton Facebook page were of relief and hope. One person said; “Great news, relief and reassurance for many families not only in Ashburton but surrounding area.” Another said: “Well done all involved. Its always worth fighting for.”