Unions warn fire move could cost lives

LIVES could be put at risk if the proposed relocation of an Ipswich fire station goes ahead, it was claimed today.

LIVES could be put at risk if the proposed relocation of an Ipswich fire station goes ahead, it was claimed today.

Suffolk Fire Authority is considering plans to close its Colchester Road HQ and move it to a site at Ransomes Europark.

The proposals have been under discussion for more than a week but were only made public after concerned firefighters contacted the Evening Star.

Meetings have been held to discuss the change which would not be rubber-stamped until May next year.

Andy Vingoe, brigade chairman of Suffolk Fire Brigade's Union (FBU), said: “I sat in on a meeting on Monday but the biggest concern seemed to be the value of the Colchester Road site. Apparently a couple of supermarkets are already interested.

“It already seems the decision is financially based rather than risk based.”

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Mr Vingoe said that in 1999 there was a standards of fire cover review in Suffolk which said that attendance times for areas including Kesgrave, Martlesham and Woodbridge could not be guaranteed if the eastern fringe of the town expanded.

It suggested suitable sites for a new fire station would be Kesgrave, Martlesham or Woodbridge.

Mr Vingoe said under the latest proposals Kesgrave would have cover taken away rather than increased.

Meanwhile, an Ipswich firefighter, who did not wish to be named, said: “We were told there would be six weeks of public consultation which started last week but so far I have not seen anything public about it.

“If people don't know about it then how is it a public consultation?

“The access for the retained crews, who are called in when needed, will be very different to Ransomes than it is to Colchester Road.

“Many live near the station now and it is a matter of minutes to get there but it could be 25 minutes up to Ransomes with bad traffic.

“In some of the villages, people (who need the fire brigade) are going to be sitting round waiting.”

What do you think of the proposals? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

IN a statement, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said: “Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is embarked on an ambitious programme of work to build and refurbish 11 fire stations in Suffolk after several years of planning and consultation with staff and local communities.

“The plans also include the refurbishment of Colchester Road fire station, one of two fire stations in Ipswich. However, opportunity has recently arisen for the possible relocation of the station from Colchester Road to the Ransomes Europark area of Ipswich, which is to the east of the town.

“A detailed feasibility study is being undertaken at present to examine the case for moving the station to this area. Initial studies indicate that this option is likely, over the longer-term, to provide effective fire cover, value for money and the opportunity to build a brand new fire station as opposed to refurbishing the existing station, which will provide a better working environment for our staff.”

They confirmed that consultation began last week, lasting for six weeks, and said meetings with the public had been planned.

They will be on October 1, from 7 to 9pm at Colchester Road fire station and October 8 at the Holiday Inn, The Havens, Ransomes Europark from 7 to 9pm.