Opposition to fire station closure plan at Wrentham public meeting
- Credit: Archant
More than 100 residents packed out a village hall to voice their strong opposition to proposals to cut a small rural fire station to save money.
Suffolk chief fire officer Mark Hardingham opened the official public consultation meeting at Wrentham Village Hall by outlining how the fire service is having to make £1.3m cuts from its £22m budget by 2017.
He said Wrentham fire station, which has been earmarked for closure, deals with only 30 to 40 emergency calls every year - and that between 25 and 35 per cent of those end up being false alarms.
He pointed out that engines from Lowestoft South and Reydon fire stations were just 10 minutes away.
But residents overwhelmingly disagreed with the fire service's proposal that Wrentham fire station should be closed, with 71-year-old Ian Johnson branding it as 'ridiculous'.
Mr Johnson, of Rissemere Lane, Reydon - a retained firefighter at Southwold for 17 years - said: 'Everything is based on statistics and cost, but you can't put a cost on the lack of reassurance to the community.
'People wouldn't mind paying a little bit extra on their council tax if they were told it was specifically for keeping the fire station.'
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Of the Suffolk County Council organisers of the meeting, he said: 'They don't realise how important these fire stations are to the communities they are in.'
Brenda Townsend, 74, of London Road, Wrentham – whose husband Charlie, 83, was sub-officer at Wrentham fire station for 23 years – said: 'I accept there are not as many fires now, but you have still got road traffic accidents where a few minutes can make a difference between life and death. It only needs one life and that's one life too many for the sake of a few minutes.
'I think they've got quite a shock at seeing the responses from people.'
Phil Johnston, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Lowestoft branch, said: 'If all on-call fire stations were available 24 hour a day, maybe there would be a reason to reduce fire stations – but they're not providing that service.
'We're effective and we always get the job done, but risk increases if you remove fire stations.'
Mr Hardingham stressed: 'This is a genuine consultation – we want to hear what people have got to say, so they can take people's views into account when making the final decision.
The proposals also include cutting one on-call fire engine at Lowestoft South.
What do you think about the proposal to close Wrentham fire station? Write, giving your full contact details, to email@example.com