Friday, 03 July 2020

Closure of fire station is confirmed

Closure of fire station is confirmed

WARGRAVE Fire Station has closed after a three-year battle to try and save it.

It is the oldest and smallest station in Berkshire and first opened in 1903.

Royal Berkshire Fire Authority first talked about shutting the station in April 2017, but a campaign from Wargrave residents bought the crew extra time.

The decision was first delayed by 12 months and then nine months in October 2018. It was put on hold again for six months following a meeting in December, when the general election was about to take place.

The crew was asked to achieve an availability target of 60 per cent, something they have consistenly failed to do. In May 2020, it dropped to 2.8 per cent.

Members had been recommended to approve the closure in order to overcome a budget shortfall of £284,000.

For the station to have stayed open, the fire authority would have had to dip into its reserves.

The Victoria Road station is run by on-call – otherwise known as retained – firefighters.

Existing members of staff will be given the opportunity to join on a permanent basis to avoid going through the recruitment process.

The recommendation was approved during a virtual meeting of the fire authority on June 26.

There were 11 votes in favour, seven against and two abstentions, one of which was Wargrave councillor Graham Howe.

Some members argued that Wargrave had not had enough chance to prove itself in the last six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, chairman Colin Dudley said the other on-call stations had managed to improve their response times in that time and the impact of closing Wargrave would be minimal.

He added: “I want to reassure people living in Wargrave that they will continue to receive the high-quality service they have become used to.

“For many years now, almost all incidents in Wargrave have been attended by crews from our whole-time stations at Wokingham Road and Maidenhead. Of the 42 incidents that have occurred in and around Wargrave, the Wargrave fire engine responded to one. 

“Even when the Wargrave appliance was available, it was very likely that the whole-time appliances from the other fire stations could still be the first to arrive. This is due to the fact that whole time stations are crewed 24/7 and immediately available to go out on blue lights.”

For the full story, pick up a copy of next week’s Henley Standard.

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