Photo Gallery: New Norwich fire station unveiled
Fire bosses promised people in Norwich that they would see an improved service as the first glimpse of a new station for the city was given yesterday.
The pledge came despite a Fire Brigades Union (FBU) warning that the move from Bethel Street to near Martineau Lane would see the reaction times to city centre emergencies fall.
The new Carrow Fire Station was opened up yesterday afternoon to allow councillors to look around the �4.5m base at the site of the former Pineapple pub.
The new station will be one of three serving the city, with others in Sprowston and North Earlham.
But this move from outside the centre of the city has led the FBU to voice concerns.
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Stefan Rider, FBU representative of the Norwich branch, said that the other two stations would have to cover the city more often.
He said: 'The knock-on effect is that the more times they are called into the city centre, the less able they are to cover suburban areas.'
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Mr Rider added that the withdrawal of a fire engine from service on April 1 from Bethel Street also exacerbated the problem.
'Any more time it takes us to get to an incident, means peoples lives are more at risk if they have a fire,' he said.
However, Stuart Horth, head of community safety at Norfolk Fire Service, said it would improve the service as it created a triangle of stations around the edge of the city.
Mr Horth said: 'Yes, it will be further to get into the city centre, but most people in Norwich live on the outskirts of the city centre.'
He added that station had a Green Wave system that allowed the fire engine to change traffic lights to green.
Harry Humphrey, Norfolk county council cabinet member for community protection, said: 'Being in the city centre sounds ideal but getting in and out in rush hour is not ideal. The facilities are so much better than at Bethel Street.'
Richard Rockcliffe, chairman of the county council fire panel, added that road traffic accidents were one of the most important jobs the service perform, making the new location more convenient.
A key part of the new building is to lower maintenance costs, and the 13,500sqm building is complete with high levels of insulation, low e-glazing and lighting systems, solar thermal heating, solar panels on the roof and air-source heat pumps.
Mr Rockcliffe said: 'Our running costs for the current fire station are a significant part of our budget, and heating and lighting will get worse.
'There is always resistance to chance, but hopefully, when everyone is settled in here, they will appreciate the benefits.'
The grand opening later this month will signal the end of a long search to replace the Bethel Street station, which served the city since it was built in 1935.
In 2006 it was first suggested that a �3m purpose built site could replace the old station, which suffers from increasing maintenance costs.
A six-year search for another city centre location proved fruitless, before the county council suggested the site near Martineau Lane.
The result is a new eco-friendly station that combines the old pub building with a purpose-built addition. Although the discovery of power lines added months of delay and an added �1.5m to the budget.
As well as housing a fire engine and four watches of eight firefighters, it will have a swift water rescue boat, conference rooms, a potential command suite and training facilities.
The fire and rescue service will also be joined by the East of England Ambulance NHS Trust, which will move there from Carrow Road.
Norwich Fire Station manager Phil Berry said it was 'fantastic' that the station was eco-friendly and that he was very positive ahead of the move.
He said that an event had been held by firefighters in June to mark those who had worked at the Bethel Station and remember those who have lost their lives while working there.
He confirmed that the old station would be closed at the shift change at 9am on Wednesday, August 24. The crew would then work from another station in the city before moving to Carrow Fire Station at 6pm.
What do you think of the location of the new Norwich fire station? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email firstname.lastname@example.org