Town centre fire station could move to the edge of Ipswich

Princes Street Fire Station, Ipswich

Princes Street Fire Station, Ipswich

Fire officials are considering closing Princes Street fire station in the heart of Ipswich and moving to a new joint emergency centre on the Whitehouse area of town.

They could build a new fire station next to the county council’s Landmark House offices at the junction of Whitehouse and Goddard Roads – with workshop facilities which could be shared with the police and possibly the ambulance service.

They are trying to work out whether it would be more cost-effective than agreeing a major refurbishment of the Princes’ Street station – and need to ensure it does not compromise the safety of the area.

Fire officers are using computer models to work out how efficient a joint emergency station could be – and have also been appliances on rush-hour “blue light” dummy runs from Whitehouse to see how long it would take them to reach various parts of the town and countryside.

Bosses at the county have said there has been no decision reached about whether the fire station should move.

Its evaluation process is due to continue until the second half of August, and a recommendation is likely to be made to a meeting of the council’s cabinet in the early autumn.

This is not the first time the county has considered moving the fire station – it had previously considered moving to Yarmouth Road or to part of the Chantry Academy site. Both proposals were eventually dropped.

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Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Sanderson said: “We continuously review all of our 35 fire stations as far as the condition of the property is concerned. Our aim is to ensure all stations are fit-for-purpose.

“Through this process we have identified the need to improve Princes Street fire station. At present we are looking at a number of options; to remain on the present site and improve the building or potentially relocate to another site in Ipswich and build a new fire station.

“Whatever options are considered it would be our intention to seek to work more closely with our Police and Ambulance colleagues.”

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Matthew Hicks said: “Suffolk Fire Service has a really good track record of making improvements to its properties.

“Only when we have all the facts in front of us will we be able to take a view on which is the most suitable option for Princes Street.”

The chairman of Suffolk’s Fire Brigade Union, Andy Vingoe, said any decision to close Princes Street would be “disastrous” for the town.

He said: “It is very near the town centre on the Double-D. It has good access in all directions and it is very busy.

“The station has only been there about 30 years – but it has been allowed to deteriorate. We’ve got to the stage now where the drains have to be cleared every week.”

Mr Vingoe said his members were very concerned about proposals to move to Whitehouse because if they were stationed there it could take much longer to reach many of their calls.

However Suffolk Police and Crime Commission Tim Passmore said he would welcome any opportunity to share facilities with the fire service.

He has not directly been involved in the negotiations, but said: “This is just the kind of project I have been saying we should be looking at. I appreciate the fire service is still looking at this proposal but I would certainly like to take part in any joint facilities there.”