NORTH Herefordshire is too remote to take a cut in its fire and rescue, cover a key council committee has heard.
Herefordshire Council’s overview and scrutiny committee has called for fire appliances to stay on-call at Kingsland and Leominster fire stations – with Kingsland proposed for closure.
Members also wanted closure-threatened Whitchurch Fire Station to at least be “mothballed” for future re-opening.
Whitchurch, the committee felt, was better served by the county’s road network.
The committee was debating the report of a council task group set up to examine the impact of the Community Risk Management (CRM) plan proposed by Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS).
As reported by the Hereford Times, CRM sees Hereford, Leominster, Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye, and Bromyard lose engines and firefighters, with Kingsland and Whitchurch stations closing.
Chief fire officer Mark Yates told the group that though he had no concerns about the impact of the cuts on day-to-day fire cover, north Herefordshire was one of two areas where cover was sparsest.
In response, the group reported being “ very concerned” about that sparsity and the rural nature of the road network.
A large number of industrial units in Leominster was also highlighted to the committee, with a recommendation put forward to retain one on-call fire engine at both Leominster and Kingsland. The CRM alternative has Leominster keeping both its engines and Kingsland station closes.
The Hereford Times reported last month that Shobdon airfield and Pembridge-based Kinspan had joined the campaign to keep Kingsland open.
For Shobdon, Kingsland station sits under its major flight path – able to respond to any aircraft incident on or off the aerodrome.
And Spencer Murtagh, divisional operations director at Kingspan, said a dip in response time – by losing Kingsland – could be the difference between a minor fire and a “catastrophe”.
The scrutiny committee also raised concerns about the “unique geographical” area of Herefordshire, increased risk of flooding and road traffic collisions.
It was that geography that the committee recommended be considered when proposing any reduction in staff and vehicles and for increased demands placed upon retained firefighters to be carefully monitored.
Specifically citing Whitchurch as an example, the committee also recommended that stations proposed for closure should initially be “mothballed” with any equipment removed held in a “strategic reserve.”
Full council will consider the report’s findings later this month.