Report reveals strength of opposition to fire cuts in Lowestoft

PHOTO: Nick Butcher

PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The scale of public opposition to closing a fire station and removing one fire engine along the Suffolk coast has been revealed.

Suffolk County Council has proposed removing a fire engine from Lowestoft South and closing Wrentham fire station, along with other changes across the county, in an attempt to save £1.3m from the fire service's £22m budget by 2017.

Public meetings were held to discuss the plans as part of an official consultation, with thousands of responses from members of the public. Chief fire officer Mark Hardingham told residents he believed the proposed cuts would still leave the area with adequate fire cover.

But now a report published by Opinion Research Services has shown the true scale of the opposition. With regards to the Lowestoft proposals, 76pc of the 1,313 who responded to the questionnaire disagreed with the plans, while 72pc of the 1,195 respondents to the Wrentham proposals criticised the bid to close the station.

Respondents to the public consultation made comments such as: 'Where is the logic?' and: 'How can it make sense to get rid of something that would potentially save lives?'

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Others said planned expansion in Lowestoft, with homes at the former Blundeston Prison site and growth in the offshore wind industry, meant it would need more cover, whereas someone else asked: 'What if there is another big fire where all engines are needed and then a smaller house fire is called in? What happens then?'

Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public protection, Matthew Hicks said: 'I would like to thank everyone who took the time to provide feedback on our Integrated Risk Management Plan and the proposals regarding the future shape of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

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'We have received a large amount of feedback from people either through attending public meetings, by going along to a focus group, inviting us to attend a locally organised meeting, completing an online survey form or by writing or talking to us.'

Mr Hardingham added: 'Officers are now reviewing the independent consultation report and the feedback we have received. The feedback we now have will help to shape future recommendations.'

The final decision on the future shape of the Suffolk fire service will be taken by the county council's cabinet at its meeting on May 17.

? For the full story, along with further reaction, pick up this week's Lowestoft Journal.

What do you think about the proposed cuts to the fire service? Email

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