Councillors agree 12 week consultation on new £1.95 million Saughall Massie fire station to replace Upton and West Kirby
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting 29th January 2014 Part 1 of 2 starting at agenda item 5 (West Wirral Operational Response Considerations (Post Consultation))
This transcript continues from Councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority discuss the Greasby fire station consultation and one states “there is no reason the vocal minority should get their way”. The reports for this agenda item can be read here on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority website.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (Chair, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority representing Liverpool City Council): OK then, item five now, this is consideration of the next stage which is before us.
DAN STEPHENS (Chief Fire Officer, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service): Thanks Chair.
The purpose of this report is to advise Members of the options which are open to the Authority to make the changes to the operational response model which are going to be necessary to deliver the financial requirement of the further financial challenge faced in 15/16.
I will realise this is a err potentially rather complicated report so I’ll try and take a little bit of time just to, just to talk us through this.
Members are well aware of the financial challenge faced by the Authority in 15/16 and that’s summarised on page 149 under the heading financial context but in simple terms we need to make another £6.3 million of savings in year 2015/16, of which £3.4 million will have to come from operational response.
The reduction in firefighter numbers which in itself reduces the number of whole time firefighters thereby appliances we can crew, which of course in itself determines ultimately which fire stations will attend.
Members are also well aware of the outcomes of the Merseyside wide public engagement over structural change options to deliver the required savings. So we previously reported that to you, the Authority in report CFO/20/14 first.
The structural change options are what we’ve referred to in the past as the least worst options and they’re listed at the top of page 150 which is outright station closures, increasing the number of low level of activity and risk crewed stations, station mergers, crewing certain stations just in the daytime only and then the used of community retained firefighters to crew a number of errm stations.
In the interest of completeness I’ve included alternative options to those recommended within this report and they’re covered within paragraphs 19-39 which is on pages 152-156. They all relate to changes to crewing systems, specifically as I’ve said previously, increasing the number of stations crewed LLAR, introducing grey route day crewing, introducing days only crewing and introducing retained crewing.
I’ve explained in there the reasons why, but I haven’t at this point as your professional adviser recommended that they are options you should pursue because none of them would deliver a less impactive outcome than the merger proposal because I need to absolutely clear Members, there’s nothing we can do here that is going to improve performance.
You cannot improve performance when you have to take out capacity and I’ve got to make that point again. I know I’ve made the point before but I’ve got to make that point again now.
So the recommendations that I’ve made to you up to this point and I will today are predicated on the least worst impact, the least impact on response times, speed and weight of attack which are the metrics I mean by which we use to determine the effectiveness of urgent responses.
I won’t speak to the alternative options in any great detail, you’re well versed now in what they all mean and what they are, why and what they are. I will however take the opportunity to remind Members of the considerations that appertain directly to the merger proposal. They’re detailed on paragraphs 40-56 along with the summary in paragraphs 57-66 which is between pages 156 to 159.
The operational logic for the merger is to close two fire stations which are adjacent to each other and to build a new fire station in a central location. So if you can equidistant between the two to minimise your impact on response times. The reason you do that is because in order to make the savings, instead of having two fire engines, you only have one. You’ve only got the crew, you’ve only got sufficient numbers of people to crew one fire engine.
So if you want that fire engine to be in the best location it can be because probably for around 50-60% of its time, it’s going to be on the fire station, you know it’s in that fixed location but what we don’t want to do is to lose that second fire engine. So what I’m proposing is that that second fire engine is crewed using the retained duty system, but not using retained firefighters.
What I’m suggesting is, I’m strongly recommending we do is that we use our whole time firefighters to crew the second fire engine on a retained basis so use a retained contract, but what that gives us is access to professional, highly competent trained firefighters with staff that we employ already.
So that gives us in effect, another whole time appliance, there’s just a delay in us bringing that into operation of about thirty minutes because they have to turn in because they’re covering this on their days off.
We’d only use the second appliance for periods of very high demand, so it would be a strategic reserve. We’re not going to use these appliances to mobilise directly to an incident because there’d be a thirty minute delay. We’re not going to do that, but what we will do is when the appliance numbers drop beneath a certain level, the mobilising officer at fire control will alert, bring the firefighters in and then that supplements the number of whole time appliances that we have and as I’ve said previously the advantage to doing that is that means we have whole time professional, very competent, very skilled firefighters to crew that fire engine.
If the Authority were to close West Kirby and Upton and to build a new station. If that would have been at the Greasby library site, the average response time would have been six minutes and eighteen seconds to life risk incidents. Bearing in mind that extends beyond dwelling fires, that includes road traffic collisions and the other emergencies that we respond to of which there’s numerous, the scope of that is enormous.
The average response time nationally to dwelling fires only is seven minutes twenty-four seconds. Now that still would have been a very favourable response six minutes eighteen.
If we closed West Kirby outright, which is in essence the other alternative, because if you do any of the other crewing changes you either can’t realistically achieve them or they’re going to induce an even longer delay in responding. The average response onto the West Kirby station area from Upton because that would remain would be eight minutes forty-six seconds compared to the five minutes twenty-four seconds that it is now.
When Wirral Council removed the Greasby library site from consideration, they made us aware of another site in Council ownership on Saughall Massie Road. That is the option that is referenced within the recommendation at the beginning of the report.
The proposal relates to building a new fire station on Saughall Massie Road. I need to point out Members, that is in the green belt, I need to make that clear at this point. The site is just outside of what’s known as the Saughall Massie Conservation Area and that’s shown on the map at appendix A.
For any planning application to succeed in a green belt, for a green belt site we would need to demonstrate special circumstances. We could not demonstrate special circumstances if there were any other alternative that were not in the green belt, hence the reason why Wirral have withdrawn the Greasby library site.
Decisions, as you’ll all be aware on planning matters are out with our gift as they relate to the planning authority in this instance, that’s Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council but what I would say is that in recent years a number of fire and rescue authorities South Yorkshire, Cheshire very recently have achieved planning permission for fire stations on green belt land. They’ve been able to demonstrate these special circumstances but each case is considered on its merits and they will be considered by the planning authority as I say which is Wirral, but what I would say is Members I need to draw your attention to paragraph fifty-three.
The average response time to incidents occurring on the Upton station area from the Saughall Massie site, I will show you a slide with that on in a couple of minutes but it would be five minutes three seconds. That’s compared to the four minutes thirty-four seconds that we currently respond to incidents from Upton. So not a huge difference and still very, very fast indeed.
The average response to incidents occurring on the West Kirby station area from Saughall Massie Road is six minutes thirty-eight seconds compared to the five minutes twenty-four coming from West Kirby. So a longer response but it’s still, it’s still a lot quicker than what you’d still, it’s two minutes quicker than what you’d prepare for responding from Upton.
If Members were minded to adopt the option to support the recommendation, we would need to undertake a period of public consultation. We would also need to engage with colleagues in Wirral, firstly to secure the transfer of the land because it is in Wirral’s ownership and to achieve planning permission and those things all take time.
What I would say is I have already written to the Chief Executive of Wirral to ask that Wirral consider transferring the land into our ownership because clearly if we don’t have that, then we don’t have a proposal that you can realistically consider and the same in truth would hold up for the planning consent.
Although at this point in time, what we’re not saying is that we apply for planning permission. That is something that we would recommend again after any consultation process and after you’ve made any decision because otherwise that could be viewed as predetermining if you like the outcome of the consultation.
I think in summary really and in support of the recommendation, the operational logic is clear and unassailable. There is no other option that we can pursue, that will deliver a least impactive outcome than a merger. Therefore you need to get that station in the best location that we possibly can.
The public have already recognised that through the Merseyside wide engagement that we’ve undertaken previously. That’s been reported to Members within report CFO/020/14. We are aware that there was signficant opposition expressed towards the site in Greasby, we know that we’ve considered the report previously.
I made it clear through that consultation process that if an alternative site was made available to us, then I certainly would recommend that to the Fire and Rescue Authority. What I would say as Members, from my perspective, having a site such as that at Saughall Massie Road, which is effectively a piece of open land, there are no complications in terms of having to try to accommodate a library or a children’s centre, which would impact on the amount of space that we had for things like including partners from the police and the ambulance service for example. None of those complications exist with the Saughall Massie Road site.
The response times that we can deliver from the Saughall Massie site are to West Kirby quicker than what you would have got from the Greasby site, I’m going to show you a couple of slides in a second which within truth probably give you a better perspective than that which is contained within the appendices.
I’ll show you a slide of both locations and then a more broader if you like west Wirral slide. There are more incidents that occur on the Upton station area than on the West Kirby station area. The number of life risk incidents that occur don’t differ substantially but the volume can be attributed to the number of secondary fires and the number of unwanted fire signals that occur at Arrowe Park Hospital predominantly.
If you consider the number of fatalities that have occurred over the last five years. Two accidental fire deaths and one RTC fatality on the Upton station area, one accidental fire death and one RTC fatality on the West Kirby station area, neither station is busy. They’re both quiet, one is just less quiet than the other. The risk is broadly the same. The risk of an incident occurring is low, the severity is high and the risk is the same on either area broadly, neither is that risky.
If the Members, if the Authority were to approve the closure of West Kirby outright, we will increase response times on to the West Kirby station area, the average response being about eight minutes forty-three, it will add at least two minutes on to the response time than it would be if we pursued the merger and it would add nearly three to four minutes on than what it is now from West Kirby.
It is my professional view therefore that the merger is the right option. What I would ask Chair if I could just use the slide projector which is over there, I just need to show you two slides and then I’ll come back.
What you see on this slide Members is the, this is predominantly, this is the Upton station area with over on the west hand side of the slide, you can just see in the bottom left hand corner as you look, that is the beginning of the West Kirby station area. It’s around the if you like the boundary between the two station areas is around here.
That was the err, that is the library site, that was the former site that was under consideration. The new piece of land which you see in appendix A is here. So it is due north from the site that we considered previously which is now no longer under consideration. The next slide’s going to show you the broader west Wirral perspective, but Upton fire station is here.
What you don’t see here on this slide is the route into West Kirby and to Hoylake because of course Hoylake is part of the West Kirby station area, probably in population terms makes up about half the population. It’s about twelve thousand in Hoylake, it’s about twelve thousand in West Kirby overall it’s about a twenty-five thousand population in the West Kirby station area.
This road here Saughall Massie Road is a faster road than Frankby Road which is why you can get in to West Kirby more quickly from Saughall Massie Road than you can from the Frankby Road site but of course because this is all, all this area here is green belt, we couldn’t consider that as long as there was an alternative. That alternative now no longer exists.
So the next slide I’ll show you, there’s only two slides, this is the last slide. This is west Wirral, so as you can see Upton, the Greasby site, Saughall Massie Road, West Kirby fire station to give you a better perspective. The midpoint of the two station areas is here, that’s Three Lanes End.
All the land in that area is in the green belt and in private ownership. The optimum location in truth would be about two hundred to three hundred metres further down what is Saughall Massie Road to the roundabout. All of that land is in private ownership. There is no guarantee the owner would sell that land to us. Wirral clearly by making this land, making us aware of this land and in principle agreeing that this is something we could pursue allows us to then consider that.
I could be spending an awful long time Members trying to pursue buying that land and we may never achieve that. We do not have the time based on the fact that the money effectively is taken out as of the first of April. We need to make the structural changes as of the first of April. Clearly we’re not going to do that because this is going to take a lot of time.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 29th January 2015 Part 2 of 2
That site is not in the optimum location, the optimum location is Three Lanes End. That in my view is as close to the optimum location that we are realistically going to get at a piece of land we can realistically expect to achieve notwithstanding the planning issues which are beyond our gift but which we can make in my view a very, very strong public safety argument around special circumstances.
Just to conclude that’s where Hoylake is ok, so you’ll appreciate from there to Hoylake that’s a longer run time than from Saughall Massie Road because there are other options in this road network that allows you to get up to what is the what is still part of the West Kirby station area.
Ironically, it’s going to take us longer to get to Greasby from Saughall Massie than it will do from Upton. That’s just one of those things. I’ll pause at that point just so you can consider that amongst yourselves but that is the reality.
To close then Members, there are three options that you need to consider, the first is close West Kirby outright subject to a six-week consultation process and relocate the fire engine at West Kirby to Upton to be crewed on a whole time retained basis.
The second option is to close West Kirby outright on the 1st April subject to a six-week consultation process and relocate the Upton, err the fire station to Upton to be crewed whole time retained and then to direct me to try and secure a optimum location to effectively relocate Upton to and the third option, the option I’m recommending, is to defer the decision on the closure of West Kirby, which is where this option differs from the previous option, to instruct officers to undertake a twelve week consultation process over the merger which is the closure of Upton and West Kirby to build a new station at Saughall Massie which would involve the relocation of a fire appliance which would be crewed on a whole time retained basis, but to note that given the fact that we are having to make the financial and therefore the structural changes in terms of we are not replacing people as they leave to direct me to bring a report to the Authority at the next Authority meeting which will explain to you the interim measures that I would take under delegated operational powers to maintain appliance availability as best as we were able to during any consultation process and during any future structural changes that needed to be made ie submission of planning permission, build and so forth. My recommendation is that you approve the last option, that which I’ve just described now for the reasons that are within in the report and the reasons which have been well rehearsed now and you’ve all heard of. Apologies for taking a bit of time over this Chair, I thought it was important that Members understood the options and the implications of them.
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