Budleigh Salterton’s mayor said the town will be vulnerable without its fire station and is urging residents to ramp up the pressure to keep it open.
Councillor Caz Sismore-Hunt said residents must write individual objection letters, to reach the Fire Authority before Friday, January 10, ahead of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service passing on its recommendation to close Budleigh’s fire station.
Cllr Sismore-Hunt said a petition, launched last week by concerned residents, may not be enough to save Budleigh fire station because the collected signatures may only count as a single correspondence.
Budleigh’s mayor said sending individual letters may have more clout because each one received could be logged separately.
Budleigh’s fire station faces closure under DSFRS cost-cutting proposals, announced last week following the Safer Together public consultation held across Devon and Somerset.
Councillor Jeff Trail, who sits on Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service Authority said he will visit Budleigh fire station and crew on Thursday, January 9, ahead of any decision. On Wednesday, January 8, Cllr Trail going to Topsham fire station, which also faces closure and relocation of crew.
Cllr Sismore-Hunt said: “We need now to pressure the Fire Authority. I think closing Budleigh is very, very short sighted. I can’t see the logic.
“Having a petition is a great idea, but people don’t understand it’s like a planning application. If you get a lot of people signing it – twenty, fifty, eighty – it’s still classed as one. If people send eighty letters, it’s classed as eighty.
“The money they will save by closing Budleigh is minimal, it’s not going to make much difference.
“It’s leaving this area totally vulnerable. I think it’s appalling. We need the Fire Authority to back us on this.
“We are being treated as second rate in this area. I am extremely disappointed.
“I really hope the Fire Authority will support the people. We’re relying on them to help.
“Three times I have fought for this station. I am at a loss what to do now.”
DSRFS recommends closing Budleigh’s fire station and allowing the town’s crew to respond from Exmouth fire station.
It is not known if Budleigh’s crew can continue to use its engine or if they will be expected to use their cars to reach Exmouth fire station.
Cllr Sismore-Hunt said: “Our lads can jump into their pump and they have got to Exmouth by the time Exmouth retained come out.
“If they have to jump in their cars, they can’t go over the speed limit to get to Exmouth.
“They won’t have a pump to jump into. They won’t have a blue light.”
DSFRS last year proposed to close Budleigh, Colyton and Topsham fire stations and cut round-the-clock crewing hours at Exmouth to on-call at night.
The proposals included ‘switching off’ Sidmouth and Honiton’s second fire engines, reducing cover at certain times.
After a lengthy public consultation period, and deferring its findings, DSFRS last week announced its recommendations.
It planned to defer cuts to Exmouth’s 24/7 crew cover, said Colyton fire station would remain open with periodic reviews, and recommended introducing risk-based availability for second fire engines at Sidmouth and Honiton.
Fire chiefs recommend closing Budleigh fire station, selling the building and removing the fire engine from the town.
Under the proposals, Topsham fire station will close and the building sold. The fire two engines will relocate – initially both to DSFRS headquarters at Clyst St George. Then one to Middlemoor, once on-call crew has been arranged.
After DSFRS announced its recommendations, East Devon’s MP, Simon Jupp wrote on social media: “The closures of Budleigh and Topsham are unacceptable and I strongly urge the Fire Authority to reconsider and put safety first.
“The proposals to close Budleigh and Topsham are short-sighted and I will take further action if the Fire Authority proceeds with the cuts.
“I’m glad new options are being considered for Exmouth and Sidmouth as the original plans were woefully inadequate.”
The changes that DSFRS 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 and Totnes.
- Introduce variable fire engine availability dependent on risk.
Lee Howell, DSFRS chief fire officer, last week said: “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.
“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.”
The fire service said, during the consultation, it held 27 drop-in sessions – attended by nearly 2,000 people, and had a total of 3,818 responses. It 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.
You can read the DSFRS report and finding here
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