East Devon’s MP has called for an ‘urgent meeting’ with fire service chiefs after it was announced stations in Budleigh Salterton and Topsham will close.
Simon Jupp described today’s decision as ‘disappointing’ and has vowed to hold bosses to account.
The Devon and Somerset Fire Authority this morning backed the controversial proposals it says will save cash and improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Budleigh Salterton Fire Station will close and the affected crews will now respond from Exmouth.
Topsham Fire Station will be relocated to the service’s HQ at Clyst St George until an on-call crew can be established at Middlemoor in Exeter.
Conservative Mr Jupp, elected in December, said: “The decision by the Fire Authority to press ahead with the closures of Topsham and Budleigh Salterton fire stations is disappointing.
“The fire and rescue service must be transparent on the impact of the closures on call-outs from both Topsham and Budleigh Salterton.
“I have asked for an urgent meeting with the chief fire officer and chair of the fire authority to discuss today’s decision.
“I will continue to hold them to account to keep the people of East Devon safe.”
Chief fire officer Lee Howell said: “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.”
Mr Howell said: “As the response area for Budleigh Salterton Fire Station falls completely within the 10-minute emergency response area of Exmouth Fire Station, it is proposed that Budleigh Salterton Fire Station is closed and existing firefighters from Budleigh Salterton respond instead to Exmouth fire station.
“Under this proposal, the fire station at Budleigh Salterton will be sold and one fire appliance removed. It is not anticipated that this proposal will result in compulsory redundancies being necessary.”
Councillor Jeff Trail said that he went to the station last night to thank all the firefighters, past and present, for their service to the community.
He added that he had their full agreement that, subject to Exmouth maintaining 24/seven crewing with Budleigh firefighters included, it would be a ‘pointless gesture’ to keep the station open as the new model would provide a ‘much better service’.
Cllr Andrew Saywell added: “It is a sad decision to close the station but I commend and thank the crew for their service and their history.
“But the decision with 24/seven crewing and the location of Exmouth station, which is a very good location to serve Budleigh, it will maintain the coverage.
“It is sad, but we have got the resource to make sure they are covered and will get a good service from Exmouth.”
Councillors voted by 23 votes to two, with one abstention, to close Budleigh Salterton Fire Station.
Mr Howell’s report says: “As the response area for Topsham Fire Station falls completely within the 10-minute emergency response area of Middlemoor Fire Station, it is proposed that Topsham Fire Station site is closed and the appliances and firefighters are relocated.
“Under this proposal Topsham Fire Station will be sold and one of the fire appliances relocated to Station 60 (Service Headquarters) in Clyst St George.
“The other fire appliance from Topsham would be located at Middlemoor Fire Station (Exeter) as soon as a new ‘on-call’ crew can be recruited or existing Topsham staff relocated.
“There would be no reduction in the number of fire appliances under this option.”
He added that most of the instances that Topsham’s crew attends are in Exeter, adding: “This is a relocation and not a closure and we think it will improve response times.”
Councillors agreed by 17 votes to four, with one abstention, that Topsham should close and the firefighters instead respond from service HQ.
A report outlining the options for the disposal and sale of the station site, valued at around £285,000, will come back to the committee at a later date.
Proposals to implement a day crewing only model at Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton have been deferred, subject to a revised 24/seven crewing model being agreed with the Fire Brigades Union.
Risk-based availability will be introduced for the second fire engines at Brixham; Dartmouth; Honiton; Ilfracombe; Okehampton; Sidmouth; Tavistock; Teignmouth; Tiverton; Wells; and Williton, rather than initial plans to only crew the second engine at night.