The Fire Service are currently consulting on proposed changes to the location of fire engines and stations across Derbyshire in order, in their own terms, to meet their ongoing budget issues and ensure their sites are most appropriately located given the ongoing, and welcome, substantial fall in call outs.
The consultation is here. The implications for Amber Valley are set out on Page 119 – the Belper and Duffield stations are in the constituency of Pauline Latham MP.
In summary the proposals for Amber Valley involve:
- – Closing the existing station at Alfreton – currently 1 whole time appliance and 1 retained
- – Closing the existing station at Heanor – currently 1 retained appliance
- – Closing the existing station at Crich – currently 1 retained appliance (in the constituency of Patrick McLoughlin MP)
- – Closing the existing station at Ripley – currently 1 retained appliance
- – Opening a new station in Ripley – somewhere off the A610 so presumably near Sainsbury’s or the Police Headquarters. This station would have 1 whole time appliance and 1 retained applicance.
- – The net capital cost of the new station would be £2.8m.
- – There would be an increase in annual running costs of £80k.
The loss of stations in 2 of the main towns in Amber Valley is clearly of great concern – as admitted in the report there is then a real issue with some high risk areas receiving a markedly slower response time – this is particularly acute in parts of Heanor and Langley Mill given the distance from the proposed new Ripley station.
I have met with the chief fire officer, Sean Frayne to discuss these proposals. While I can understand there need to deal with budgetary issues – and these are sadly unlikely to go away in the near future – it is difficult to see the logic in spending nearly £3 million and £80k more a year to deliver a reduced service. I was not convinced that the proposals make sense.
The simple solution seems to be to leave Amber Valley as it is and use the £2.8 million and the £80k a year to help elsewhere in Derbyshire. While I can see that a well-located whole time station in Ripley could have advantages for the existing – and proposed! – housing in and around Ripley, the existing Alfreton station (located near Thorntons, just off the a38 at the Alfreton/Swanwick junction) is already very well-located for access to the A38.
I therefore urge the Fire and Rescue Service and the Fire Authority to reconsider these proposals and keep the Heanor and Ripley stations open so that the retained firefighters at these stations – who provided coverage 90% of the time last year – can continue to provide their excellent service.
On 25th November 2013, I took the opportunity to raise this matter in Parliament. Here’s what I said:
Nigel Mills MP: Does the hon. Gentleman share my bemusement that the Amber Valley proposals will cost £3 million in capital and have an extra running cost every year of £150,000? If the proposals are motivated by a funding problem, that seems to be a strange way to fix it.