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Plans to move fire station to be discussed

Newton Abbot could move closer to A38

It is believed that preferred site is on land at Staplehill Road, owned by Teignbridge District Council, and forms the content of a report that will be discussed in private at today’s executive meeting.

A spokesman for Teignbridge said that they could not comment on the nature of the Part II report.

The news comes in the same week that a report to the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s Resources Committee says the service is facing a challenge in maintaining the number of fire stations, replacing and maintaining fire appliance, its capital expenditure requirement and keeping debt charges within a five per cent limit.

More money will have to be borrowed, or stations will have to close or relocate, to meet the requirements.

Cllr Gordon Hook, who represents the Buckland and Milber ward on Teignbridge District Council, and a member of the Fire Authority, said he was briefed on the plans this week and has raised concern for the safety of the people of Newton Abbot.

He said: “The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service tell me that they can now reach a call out on Buckland and Milber quicker from Torquay, thanks to the new South Devon Highway, than they can from Balls Corner.

“They also tell me that a new stations at Forches Cross will serve the area of Newton Abbot, and the planned new homes around Whitehill and Houghton Barton better than the existing station would, and that it can also improve response times to the area around Heathfield.

“This raises questions for me as how can it be quicker to get from Forches Cross than Balls Corner for a fire, god forbid in Austin’s or any of the homes in the town? I will be needing very clear evidence to support that view and that the new location will be better for Newton Abbot, as with the traffic issues in the area, how can they get there quicker from this new location or from Torquay?”

He added that he will be seeking indisputable evidence from the fire service for the proposals and that if they were to press ahead with the plans, they are not progressed with until the A382 widening scheme has been completed.

Cllr Hook added: “I question also what this means for Bovey Tracey’s fire station as if the station at Forches Cross will help serve Heathfield, then what are their plans for Bovey Tracey or Ashburton stations?

“My overriding concern is the safety of all those who live in or work in or shop in the area. Safety cannot be compromised. The cynic in me wonders whether the fire service are planning to make a killing in selling the land where the current fire station is.”

A spokesman for the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “The Service is currently talking to staff about a major change and improvement programme and a key part of this involves looking at the locations of our fire stations and how firefighters operate from them. We need to ensure that our resources are in the right place to deal with incidents quickly and efficiently and at the same time increase our business safety and prevention work in the community.

“We recognise that fire stations are important to local communities but it is right for us to look at all of our resources to make sure they can continue to deliver a service that will meet changing risks in each area.”

The service’s adopted change & improvement programme mandate approved last year says that the service will optimise appliance availability by looking at risks in geographical areas and analysing if appliances and stations are based in the optimum locations to meet those risks.

There are currently 85 fire stations across the two counties, but they are aligned to standards of fire cover that were developed in the late 1940s and are not reflective of the current and future demographics of Devon and Somerset, the service’s recently adopted change & improvement programme mandate states.

To deliver the fire and rescue service for the communities of Devon and Somerset over the next five years, the service will need to consider the way the fire stations and appliances are crewed and relocating some of the fire stations, appliances and staff to areas where risk is greatest, the strategy adds.

It comes as a report of Amy Webb, Director of Finance, for the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, ahead of next week’s Resources Committee, emphasises the difficulties in meeting the full capital expenditure requirement for the Service, given the geographical size, number of fire stations and fire appliances required to be maintained and eventually replaced.

It adds: “The capital programme has been constructed on the basis that the revenue budget contribution to capital will be maintained in future years and highlights that unless capital assets are rationalised, there will be a need to borrow in 2021-22.

“A range of options and scenarios, including modelling of new and alternative sites to any impact on emergency response times, has been reviewed with the two Assistant Chief Fire Officers to assess the value and merit of the various options.

“As a result, a programme of improvement has commenced to improve or replace stations whose future strategic importance is now confirmed and where investment into the facilities and site is appropriate and viable. The current programme anticipates that this investment will increase over the next of five years with to meet our future operational needs, but affordability considerations will mean that those plans may have to be revisited.”

Her report adds that the revised capital programme for the next three has also been revisited, with an extra £15m set to be spent by 2021-22, split by £12.9m on estates and £2.1m on fleet and equipment.

A whole life costing review of the Rapid Intervention Vehicles appliance and complete fleet of 121 pumping appliances has been undertaken by the service, and a review of the fleet profile of RIV, Light Rescue Pump and Medium Rescue Pumps is being progressed and is anticipated to be finalised in March or April 2019 to support changes to the service delivery model.

It adds: “A 10 year vehicle replacement programme has been developed and an equipment replacement programme is in development. However, the programme will be subject to review due to affordability of the whole capital programme.”

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