Plans to axe Huntington fire station from its full-time role have been approved, despite cross-party condemnation in York.
North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) Zoe Metcalfe announced on Thursday that she had approved the new ‘risk and resource model’ for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (NYFRS) after a three month consultation.
She has insisted that the plans are not about cost cutting, but are instead about boosting prevention work and making sure firefighters and engines are in the right place across the county.
Ms Metcalfe has said that York has more resources than it needs and that Huntington was the lowest risk area in the city. It will become an on-call service.
The full-time shift fire engine will be removed from Huntington, with all full-time firefighters redeployed to other stations or roles.
A small group of full-time firefighters will also initially be based at the station to increase the availability of the on-call fire engine during the day.
Acomb and York fire stations will remain 24-hour operations.
She said after her decision: “Some areas of the service will change, and I know change can be unsettling, but I remain confident that the right people will be in the right place, with the right equipment at the right time, to support everyone in North Yorkshire and York.”
Residents ‘completely ignored’
NYFRS has said fire response times will rise by less than four minutes, but this has been disputed by the Fire Brigades’ Union, who say delays of up to 16 minutes are possible for people living in Huntington, Haxby, Wigginton, Strensall, New Earswick and parts of Rawcliffe.
Strensall ward councillor Tony Fisher (Lib Dem), said Ms Metcalfe has “completely ignored” residents opposed to the proposals.
“This plan is nothing more than a cut in fire and rescue services for over 30,000 people in the city and many more beyond York,” he said.
“It is yet another example of Conservatives cutting crucial public services. This dangerous decision, just before the role of the commissioner is set to be abolished as part of the region’s devolution deal, is one that will have serious consequences for our residents.”
Fellow ward councillor, Conservative Paul Doughty, said he was “desperately disappointed”.
“I recognise the worthiness of the investment into other areas of operation but don’t think this should come at the expense of a reduction in response time that the change at Huntington Fire station will bring,” he added.
“The most important aspect to me when it comes down to it – we may not need them often for house fires but a few minutes difference in response times could be the difference between life and death and I can’t get beyond that sobering thought.”
Writing to the Home Secretary
Cllr Keith Aspden, council leader and vice-chair of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime panel, said he would be writing to the Home Secretary “to bring our serious concerns to their attention and urge them to provide adequate long term funding that would ensure the service is not forced to make decisions such as this.”
York Labour group leader Cllr Claire Douglas said: “Prevention work is incredibly important but it is no substitute for a crewed fire station when a fire does occur in any one of our communities.”
Jonathan Dyson, chief fire officer at NYFRS, said Ms Metcalfe’s endorsement of his proposals supported his professional opinion on managing risk.
He added: “Our strong focus on prevention and protection activities are the primary way for us to reduce risk in our communities.
“This provides a sustainable commitment to keep the communities of North Yorkshire and the City of York safe and feeling safe.”