Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Save our fire station

RESIDENTS of Wargrave want to keep the village’s fire station open.

The station in Victoria Road could be closed under plans by the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority to save £2.4million by 2020. A public consultation on the options ended on Monday.

Wargrave Parish Council has received requests from villagers to fight to keep the station open.

Speaking at a council meeting, parish clerk Stephen Hedges said: “We have received various representations from people saying they would like to see Wargrave station retained — there is strong support for it. This parish council has always been behind the retention of the station and has been supportive of any work to modernise it.”

He said many residents had concerns over how quickly fire engines would reach Wargrave from other stations such as Maidenhead and Caversham Road in Reading.

Mr Hedges said: “It will take a long time for a fire engine to get out here, even with ‘blues and twos’ on.”

Chairman Richard Bush said firefighters from Wargrave had come to his aid during incidents at Gibstroude Farm in Crazies Hill, which he owns. He said: “I’ve been so grateful to Wargrave fire brigade on several occasions when we’ve had barn fires or field fires. I can’t say strongly enough that we should fight to save the station.”

Councillor Marion Pope said: “We have had fires in the tennis club and scout hut and when you’re alone in the dark it’s lovely to see the fire brigade turn up.”

The station has historically had problems recruiting firefighters and nearly had to close in 2014 after two-thirds of the crew left in two years.

It meant that if one of the remaining four retained firefighters resigned, the station would no longer be allowed to respond to 999 calls and could be forced to close. But the fire service held several successful recruitment drives and the station now has nine retained firefighters.

Wargrave’s two borough councillors have called on residents to support the station in the consultation.

In an open letter to locals, John Halsall and Bob Pitts said the station housed a vital NHS responder unit, which responds to 20 to 30 calls per month and generates valuable income for the fire service.

They also claimed the station is cheaper to run than some of the other stations threatened with closure.

The feedback from the consultation will be considered at a meeting of the fire authority on April 18 and a final decision will be made in May.

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