What did politicians on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority say about a fire station at Saughall Massie before the consultation began?
The author of this piece is also the Appellant in a First-Tier Tribunal matter where Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority is the Second Respondent.
A long time ago, in fact the 29th January 2015 the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority met to agree on a consultation on a fire station in Saughall Massie. Recently a planning application was submitted to Wirral Council for a new fire station in Saughall Massie.
Below is an uncorrected transcript of what was said at that meeting (as it covers the planning application and what comes next), which can also be watched in the two Youtube videos below.
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Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting on 29th January 2015 Part 1 of 2 (44m 05s)
Notes: known speakers are identified by name in all caps. Unknown speakers are down as “Unidentified speaker”.
Parenthetical notations are used to record happenings (such as a vote), these are also in all caps.
Sounds that cannot be distinguished on the recording or by shorthand notes taken at the time are referred to as indiscernibles. If known, the reason will be included such as [indiscernible – background noise], [indiscernible – accent], [indiscernible – overlapping speakers], [indiscernible – rapid speech] and [indiscernible – away from microphone].
When it is not possible to determine the correct spelling, the word (phonetic) may be used.
For the purposes of clarity the heading for each agenda item will be included in bold capitalised text for example followed by a timestamp [1. Preliminary Matters 0:04]
Location: Temporary Meeting Room, 1st floor, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters, L30 4YD
Date: 29th January 2015
Committee: Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Clip: Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Thursday 29th January 2015 Part 1 of 2
Length of Clip: 44:06 (mm:ss)
[Agenda item 1 – Preliminary Matters 0:01]
[indiscernible – overlapping speakers]
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): bring the public meeting to order. Good afternoon everybody Members, Officers and representatives.
Errm, firstly there’s no recording as of yet, Mr. Brace have you got that?
I just need to just read out a piece of housekeeping things.
Errm, in respect of a fire alarm test, there aren’t any this afternoon, but if a fire alarm does go off, then obviously you know it’s a problem and to meet outside in the car park.
Obviously, it’s a public building and there’s no smoking allowed inside the public building.
Anybody who requires to use the toilets, they’re just outside the corridor on the left hand side. Anybody who wishes to leave the meeting for whatever reason is to make sure that any recording equipment is switched off and errm privacy and confidentiality because the proceedings will be recorded to ensure that Members to look out for any [indiscernible – accent] showing that may be private or confidential
[Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan arrives at this point]
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): or may be exempt
and are we agreed for the, these proceedings to be recorded? Does anybody have any objection? No?
And I would ask that all, all mobile phones be either switched off or put on silent. Is that ok? Could everybody check their mobile phones please? Thank you. OK?
So I therefore Councillor Hanratty, Chair of the [indiscernible – background noise] now declare this meeting open. OK?
And as this is the err reconvened meeting because as you know in December it was adjourned this meeting, this meeting was of the errm, we weren’t certain already about the outcome of negotiations with the Council so I need to the open the adjourned meeting if that’s the correct terminology.
So have we any apologies for absence? No?
[indiscernible – background noise]
Thank you for that. Err, any declarations of interest, for any Members or officers for any items on the agenda? No?
There’s no additional items which the Chair has determined as any great matters of urgency and we do have two items which are exempt in which we’ll exclude the press and public, that’s item F to item number 5 and obviously there’s item number 6.
Which if anybody has any questions on item 5, then please let us know because we’ll have to ask the members of the public for that item. We’ll have to ask err members of the public to to leave errm if that’s ok? But item 6, we’ll have to ask them then in any event.
OK, is that agreed?
[indiscernible – overlapping speakers]
[the six councillors visible on the tape (Cllr Dave Hanratty, Cllr Les Byrom, Cllr Linda Maloney, Cllr Jimmy Mahon and Cllr Ted Grannell and Cllr Barbara Murray) did not raise their hand to vote in favour of Cllr Dave Hanratty’s motion at this point]
Just before we start the meeting, just to say that we have received a message back from Councillor Tom Newman, just to thank the Authority for the gifts for the hard work that he’d received following his err retirement from the Authority so if we could just err make a note of that and also errm, the the good news is that errm the Fire Chief Dan Stephens
was given the honour as well with the Queen’s Fire Service, sorry about that.
[indiscernible – overlapping speakers]
Well, we inspire service medals! It’s a great honour and you know how wonderful for his family, but also for everybody involved in the Authority and the Service, so if we could do..
And I’m sure when he goes down to the meeting with her Majesty, he’ll err, he’ll err tell her for a few bob.
DAN STEPHENS (CHIEF FIRE OFFICER, MERSEYSIDE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE): I’m not sure about that Chair. [indiscernible – away from microphone] be available.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): OK, as we go onto the business of the agenda, item 2 is the minutes of the previous meeting.
[Agenda item 2 – Minutes of the Previous Meeting 3:40]
Is that agreed?
VARIOUS COUNCILLORS: Agreed.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): OK, thank you very much. Item 3 is the Corporate Risk Register. OK?
[Agenda item 3 – Corporate Risk Register 3:48]
PHIL GARRIGAN (DEPUTY CHIEF FIRE OFFICER): OK, thanks Chair. I’m [indiscernible – background noise] this, this report.
The purpose of this report is to inform Members of the current risks maintained in the Corporate Risk Register, the status of those risks
and any associated control measures that have been put in place to mitigate those risks including any reference to any new risks introduced during that period and we’ll also be covering any risks that would be removed from the Register over the period and the recommendation is that Members approve the Corporate Risk Register as the risks currently informed in it.
This is a relatively standing item for Members really, in respect of management of the risks to the Authority, errm and the report itself just highlights a couple of the kind of key areas so Members can have it brought to their attention and so it’s six, seven and eight which details some of the more discussion in terms of the risks.
The risks going forward, continued to review the Risk Register and the December update for [indiscernible – accent], it’s all changes that have been made as presented to the Authority and no risks have required any risks or indeed any changes.
Errm risk 1.1.4 (the non uniform pay award) at
2.2 of the report across two years, a firefighters’ pay award of 1 point, sorry of 1% be agreed. There’s still concerns about the employer’s pensions pots and we are awaiting a government announcement on this.
Erm 1.8 which is risk 2.24, the Equality and Diversity Annual Report, our Equalities Act compliance has been approved and published and good progress has been made against the equality and diversity plan in that. Errm, we’re actually into the third year and as you can see again that we have equality excellence across that framework.
And then this report we’re in 4.3, errm this is the delivery of the fullness of that to continue to have a robust strategy in place to reduce the risk at a Corporate [indiscernible – accent] planning processes that are currently adopted by the Authority.
And again, err just in relation to risk 4.5, errm despite reductions in the number of staff in the Corporate Communications team, errm we’re still delivering
a high level of service in that regard, so, I’m happy to take any questions Chair and Members about the documentation itself. The Risk Register’s itself attached at Appendix A of the report.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): OK, thanks, thanks for that, excellent, any questions or comments from Members? No? Are we happy to approve the report?
VARIOUS COUNCILLORS: Agreed.
[Agenda item 4 Wirral Fire Cover Consultation Outcomes 6:22]
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Errm, item number 4 is the consultation outcomes of the proposed merger in Wirral err of Upton and West Kirby.
DAN STEPHENS (CHIEF FIRE OFFICER, MERSEYSIDE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE): Thanks Chair. The purpose of this report is to inform Members of the outcomes of the twelve-week public consultation process over the proposal to merger the existing fire stations at Upton and West Kirby at a new station in err, what was the library and childrens’ centre site on Frankby Road in Greasby. That would be as an alternative to the outright closure of West Kirby Fire Station.
Members will recall approving the proposal subject to the outcomes of the public consultation at the Authority meeting on the 2nd of October last year. At the same meeting, the Members approved a detailed consultation process that mirrored that which we had undertaken in Knowsley over the last summer which related to the proposal to close Huyton and Whiston and build a new station at Prescot and that proposal was subsequently approved by Members at the meeting on the 2nd of October. A total of four public meetings, three focus groups, one stakeholder meeting, one panel (a Wirral Deliberative Forum) and numerous meetings with individual interested parties were handled over the twelve week period.
Those details, details of those meetings are listed in paragraphs eighteen to twenty-four on pages thirty-one
and thirty-two. A summary of the outcomes is listed at paragraphs six to twelve on page thirty, with a detailed breakdown on an event by event basis in paragraphs twenty-five to fifty-one which runs from pages thirty-two to thirty-eight which is supplemented by reports on the questionnaire and focus group which are at appendices C and D which run from pages fifty-nine through to ninety-nine.
Just to draw out specifically paragraphs forty-seven through forty-nine detailing the extensive correspondence which resulted from the process and also the details of the Freedom of Information requests that were received. Appendix E on pages a hundred and one to a hundred and twenty-two contains a summary of the questions that were asked during the public meetings and the stakeholder engagement err meeting along with my responses to those questions.
I am conscious that there is a significant amount of information that you need to consider so I’ll focus specifically on the summary which is on page thirty within paragraphs six to twelve. The deliberative focus groups and the Forum all agreed that the principle of the merger was reasonable given the financial challenges faced by the Authority. The stakeholder meeting which consisted of representatives from the public and the private sector were broadly supportive again of the merger proposal and recognised its reasonableness in the context of the financial challenges that we face.
There was considerable opposition to the merger at the public meetings particularly in relation to the use of the Frankby Road site. Two public meetings in Greasby were the, were the, were the by far and away had the, had the highest level of
attendance, with local people from Greasby and it’s fair to say that they were almost unanimously opposed to the merger proposal. The majority of the people that were objecting were of the view that we should close West Kirby outright in order to avoid then having to build a new station on the site of the library and the children’s centre at Frankby Road. It would be fair to say there were some and certainly the people who attended the meetings and responded to the survey who did recognise the rationale and the operational logic to err closing two stations and building a new station in a central location.
It’s err the view of officers, certainly my view, that the majority of respondents to the questionnaire in particular the residents of Greasby, they were very focussed
on the errm on the site itself and my view is that they to a greater or lesser extent disregarded the question they were being asked around the reasonableness of the merger from an operational response perspective and instead focussed solely on the fact that they just didn’t want a fire station in what was viewed as a, as a village.
Once the library site had been withdrawn, the, we received some err, some further responses to our questionnaire, all of which supported the merger principle which I would suggest it is err, is supports the view that I’ve previously articulated in relation to the view taken by certainly the Greasby residents. One point I would make is is
that the population of Greasby is around nine thousand and there were just under around about a thousand responses to the survey, the majority of which were opposed and probably around maybe eight hundred attendees at the meetings in the two public meetings in err Greasby which of course represents less than 15% of the overall population of Greasby opposed to the merger. So you can take the view there that the majority of people either were not opposed or were supportive or at worst were ambivalent. So I think there is, when you consider the context there that’s much as anything this probably vindicates in my view why we use the focus groups and deliberative forums which is what you’re getting then is a more objective view and a more representative of the perspective if you like than you do necessarily by a meeting in a specific location
that there is every likelihood that that will be attended by people who if they’re well organised can mount a fairly significant opposition which whilst being very vocal and having high numbers of people doesn’t necessarily represent the majority. What I would say is there was no significant opposition to the merger and therefore if you like the principle of closure in West Kirby or Upton and in truth the majority of people that attended those meetings were actually from Greasby and were there to make their point about mostly the Greasby location.
That of course was withdrawn, which in one sense renders the err renders that particular question academic because that’s no longer an option available to the Fire and Rescue Authority. One point or two points rather though that I would make is first of all the cost of the consultation process is contained within paragraphs
fifty-six to fifty-eight which is on page thirty-nine. The overall cost was 18,744 pounds and fifty pence. What I would say is, I’d say the second point to make, that does not reflect in any way the amount of officer time that was expended during the consultation process. To be clear Members, it is a significant drain on officer time in undertaking these processes. I just thought it’s worth making that point about the reason that. There is a, there is a fair amount of work that arises from the managing austerity and there are a number of measures, which you’re well aware of, that we need to undertake in order to deliver structural changes and we’ll consider one on the next agenda item. These things take time and I just need to make that point now because I will revisit that point at the next agenda item. The recommendation of the report is that Members note the content, mindful
of the outcomes of this process because of course that does have a bearing when considering the next agenda item. I’ll pause at that point Chair and I’ll take any questions on that.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Ta, OK thanks for that, do Members have any questions or comments or observations on that item? Go on.
CLLR LESLEY RENNIE (LEAD MEMBER FOR OPERATIONAL PREPAREDNESS FROM WIRRAL COUNCIL): Thank you Chair. First of all, can I just start off and thank the Chief and other officers errm who attended the consultation meetings. I went along to two of them. The first one was Greasby which I couldn’t get into errm because of the number of people there, but I did speak to a number of people outside and I did attend the one at Woodchurch and it is exactly as is written here. Errm people really had quite a considerable difficulty in separating what we as a Fire Authority were consulting on and what would be the next stage which clearly is not within our remit, it’s within the remit of Wirral Borough Council’s
planning issues and they did have some difficulty with that. I was appalled at some of the comments which were being made outside by members of the public which was quite disparaging to say the least towards the people of West Kirby and what their future safety may or may not be if in fact a merger didn’t go ahead but having said that the Chief also mentioned a number of people who attended the West Kirby, err the Greasby meetings and also the ratio of those to the population of Greasby. I parked right opposite where the meeting was being held and it’s fair to say it was early evening and people living in those bungalows right opposite were sitting in their front rooms watching television. Now I don’t know obviously how many people lived in that household, perhaps some of them went over to the meeting, but clearly those people right opposite, a very crude observation you would say, but they weren’t particularly concerned about it.
Errm, those that went to the meeting seemed particularly vocal and quite clearly there’s nothing the matter with that, but I’m not quite sure it was a true representation of the errm people of that area, errm I think now obviously when we move onto the next item, that’s where we have to make the decisions but I as a Member for Wirral and of this Fire Authority, I’m extremely comfortable that we carried out a most comprehensive consultation exercise errm I think in every aspect in this and I think everybody in Wirral had the opportunity to join in the consultation and to comment if need be. There was a clear willingness from officers of the Fire Authority to meet with errm members of the public, set up separate meetings with obviously the stakeholder groups and people from the community there. There was also never any opposition to requests that I made for them to meet with ward councillors
errm for the Greasby ward who were clearly concerned and clearly there was meetings which were held with the local MP so I think at the end of this errm I don’t think anybody could come forward and say that the Fire Authority and indeed the Fire Service in Merseyside didn’t give people a full opportunity to engage in the process and I’m pleased about that particularly as we move into the decisions which we’re going to have to take in item five so that’s just my observations and comment on that.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Roy?
CLLR ROY GLADDEN (LEAD MEMBER FOR PREVENTION & PROTECTION (LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL)): Thank you Chair, I think it’s important that we remind ourselves that the reason we’re in this position is because of the millions of pounds that have been taken away from the budget of this Authority and that you know the numbers of posts that have eventually been lost and of course we know about the hundreds of staff and it is important sometimes to remind people of this that we’re not going to the people of Wirral or Liverpool about closing stations because it’s something we want to do, or we take great pleasure in doing.
It is because we’re trying to maintain a excellent service and continue as an excellent service within the remit of a budget that has, that has been given to us and every time we go through this kind of exercise, which is a very important exercise and I think everybody knows, thank you, as you said before about some of the remarks that people say about we really don’t care about those down the road or at the other side is absolutely disgusting! We are looking at and we hope that whatever decisions we come to that we look at everybody. Never mind where they live, never mind what their political persuasion is, never mind how much they’ve got or what kind of house they live in but that they’re safe and secure and it is something that you know we, we know we’re taking on board on every occasion. Now we have to now go on to the next stage, because as the Chief said and others have said, there is a sizeable minority who
are opposed to it and so therefore you know we have to but we have to keep coming back to this because my fear is that if we don’t deal with this matter now and then we’ll all know what a budget crisis means, that if it goes over deadlines it has an impact. So if you’re going to make a cut within the first three months of a budget and it then takes you twelve months, then the cut is more severe. You know, it doesn’t take to be Einstein to understand that and so we’re really pushed now to ensure that whatever changes we make are done in a relative manner and instead of giving the time and effort that the Chief has put in and his colleagues on this one, well we’re yet again constrained and err you know I think it would behoves on all of us to make sure that we make sure it’s done and we take on board some things that are said and there is no reason the vocal minority should get their way.
CLLR LESLIE T BYROM (VICE CHAIR, MFRA (SEFTON COUNCIL)): Thank you Chairman. This agenda item, we’ve dealt with. Wirral have taken it off the table which has moved us on but just to remind us where we are and why we are here, politically and as an Authority, in the first rounds of the austerity measures we agreed that we’d reduce the number of appliances without changing the numbers of fire stations and that was our first plan. So the next plan was to assume low hanging fruit, low hanging fruit, those amalgamations that could be achieved and actually what we did in our budget a couple of years ago was assume that we’ve already made these savings in effect. We are funding from capital the additional staff that will have to be found by these changes and it’s changes in Knowsley and St Helens and the Wirral
and Liverpool and then we move on. So these are, we can’t stand still on this, these are the consequences and we can’t just sort of say ‘Look OK, well never mind, we’ll just move on to somebody else’. We’ve already made these plans, we’re sticking with our plan, now we take advice from officers as to where alternative locations may be, things always change a little bit, but we can’t stand still on this, it just has to move on and as we know there may well, as we had in our briefing day, there may well be more consequences if there’s a continued drive to move the budget down further and further and further in future years. Thank you.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR, MFRA): Thanks for that, any comments? No? I’ll just bring your attention specifically because in the report it does suggest about the correspondence that we received. If any Member wishes to look at the correspondence it’s here in the green folder, so all the letters and everything that we received
that they are there for any Member to see and the report from the research there’s just some errm printing errors, there’s no errors in terms of the contents of the report itself but everybody has received another copy and just to say we always knew that it would be difficult to identify a suitable location within the Wirral through the availability of land and whatever but I think this one has been a testing time for the Authority and we never really expected the responses that we received and the tone you know and the contents of that which is obviously inappropriate to consider that.
It’s our role as the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority to obviously consider what the professional advice that we’re given for the operational response in those particular areas and that’s our remit. You know some of the comments that was made were uncalled for and shouldn’t have been made
and people you know should reflect on those some of the comments that were made especially for those people that live in West Kirby that would be directly affected if we didn’t go ahead with the proposed merger at a, at a suitable location but you know we’ve done it, we’ve done extensive consultation, errr probably more than any other organisation has done in the past and our thanks go to all the officers and all our staff involved in preparing this and conducting the and attending the public meetings but as has been said we need to make a decision on this because it is because of the cuts that are being imposed on us and we do need to move on item five obviously takes us to that next stage but if we can approve the, well the recommendation in the report is to note the report and I want to go on to item five, so Members is that agreed?
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): OK then,
[Agenda item 5 West Wirral Operational Response Considerations (Post Consultation) 24:56]
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 quite 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 the err in what they all mean and what they are, why and what recommended them.
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 err 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, it’s still a lot quicker than what you’d still, it’s two minutes quicker than what you’d be if you were responding from Upton. If Members were minded to adopt the option to support the recommendation, we would need to undertake another 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 be 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 childrens’ 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 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 err,
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’ve 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.
PART 1 OF 2 RECORDING ENDS
Continues at Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting on 29th January 2015 Part 2 of 2 (17m 17s)
Location: Temporary Meeting Room, 1st floor, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters, L30 4YD
Date: 29th January 2015
Committee: Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Clip: Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Thursday 29th January 2015 Part 2 of 2
Length of Clip: 17:17 (mm:ss)
[Agenda item 5 – West Wirral Operational Response Considerations (Post Consultation) 0:01]
DAN STEPHENS (CHIEF FIRE OFFICER, MERSEYSIDE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE): 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 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 appreciate from there to Hoylake, that’s a longer run time than from Saughall Massie Road because there are other options within this road network that allows you to get on to what is the err 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, that’s just one of those things. I’ll pause at that point there and consider that amongst yourselves, but that is the reality and if I can Chair I’ll just continue round the room speaking.
To close then Members, the are, there are three options, that err, that you err, that you need to consider today, the first is, close West Kirby outright, subject to a 6 week consultation process to relocate fire engines at West Kirby to Upton, to be crewed on a wholetime retained basis.
The second option, is to close West Kirby outright till the 1st of April, again subject to a 6 week consultation process and relocate the Upton, err fire station to Upton to be crewed wholetime retained and then to
direct me to try and secure an optimum location to effectively relocate Upton too and the third option, the option that I’m recommending, is to defer the decision on the closure of West Kirby, which is where this option differs if you like from the previous option, to instruct officers to undertake a 12 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 the fire appliance that would be crewed on a wholetime basis. But to note that, given the fact that we are, having to make financial and therefore the the structural changes, in terms of we are not replacing people as they, 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 are able to, during any consultation process, during any future structural changes that needed to be made ie submission of the 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 the report and the reasons which have been well rehearsed now and we’re well aware of.
Apologies for taking a bit of time over this Chair, but I felt it was important Members understood the the options and the implications of those, I’ll pause at that point and take any questions.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Absolutely, errm, just before we open it up, errm just to make a note that the recommendation around the proposals that we’ve got tonight is that we approve the err [indiscernible – accent and indiscernible – away from microphone] so we want to defer the decision on closing West Kirby and the proposal for Upton as well until there’s consultation on the Saughall Massie Road, errm just so you know that, that’s what I want to do and Lesley?
CLLR LESLEY RENNIE (LEAD MEMBER FOR OPERATIONAL PREPAREDNESS FROM WIRRAL COUNCIL): Errm, Thank you Chair, errm, well I’m, I’m absolutely delighted that that is what you’re proposing and I really hoped that you’d done that. It seemed to me that it’s [indiscernible – away from microphone]the opportunity and I’d have never expected that as well.
But having said that I just wanted to make a couple of comments. I am still one hundred percent convinced that a merger is the best possible option that we have as a Fire and Rescue Authority, in the circumstances we have which for all the reasons regarding finance, errm savings that we have had to make, I’m not rehearsing all those again, err I think we’re extremely fortunate to be able to have the opportunity errm to at least pursue this other
option on the Saughall Massie site.
I know that it’s not going to be popular, with err particularly some of my colleagues in Wirral, errm, but I think here has a Fire Authority and what I have to do errm as well in my mind, is to say you have a piece of greenbelt land here, errm on the other hand you have the safety of 76,000 people in the wider err Hoylake, West Kirby, Meols area, errm which we can offer them the added safety of I know it’s errm it’s still a reduction in the response times, but at least a fire appliance would be able to get to them and if we went along this option it would be two minutes and two minutes is an awful long time when your life, or your family or you’re in a road traffic accident and you really feel it’s a matter of life or death.
So I think you know we have to be pragmatic about this and I’m sure when clearly as it’s been mentioned the Chair has suggested the best possible option is to proceed today is to
weigh up what we have as I say to the people on one hand there’s a small piece of greenbelt land, yes it is designated as greenbelt land. It’s not a lush pasture by any means, it’s a piece of scrappy land, but nevertheless, it’s greenbelt land and that will cause some opposition errm in the Wirral I’m sure from amongst colleagues, excuse me, and I’m sure members of the public but weighing that up against the, as I say the additional safety for that wider area of West Wirral, I, I don’t think that there’s any choice in that.
In my view it’s the best possible option, there is, it’s unfortunate again I know errrm, in Wallasey that we have to enter into a full consultation, but again, I think you know, again that’s a sensible decision to take if it made sure that we’re bolt and braces really and hopefully that we won’t find ourselves in a judicial review because that would just take us endlessly into the future time so errm I’d be pleased to support option 3a.
I hope that’s what the Chair wants as well. Thank you.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Jean?
CLLR JEAN STAPLETON (LEAD MEMBER FOR FINANCE, ASSETS & EFFICIENCY FROM WIRRAL COUNCIL): I would definitely agree with the Chief’s recommendation and I would concur with errm Councillor Rennie’s, but I would suggest also Lesley that you might have a word with your colleagues in West Wirral,
CLLR LESLEY RENNIE (LEAD MEMBER FOR OPERATIONAL PREPAREDNESS FROM WIRRAL COUNCIL): I have.
CLLR JEAN STAPLETON (LEAD MEMBER FOR FINANCE, ASSETS & EFFICIENCY FROM WIRRAL COUNCIL): because there’s an opportunity for them here to show political leadership, in the community to help build errm, I hate to say to get their priorities right for humanity’s sake.
To weigh up humanity against the scrappy piece of greenbelt err land, this really is not an option is it really?
It should be easy for you to make the right decision on that one and I would suggest that there is an opportunity for the politicians to get their priorities right and it’s safer for the residents that they represent.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Thanks Jean, any other comments? Tony?
CLLR TONY ROBERTSON: Thanks Chair, again I would like to state that I think that we’re going in the right direction here and I speak as an environmental campaigner who’s spent an awful lot of my time
trying to prevent greenbelt development.
Err and I’ve been doing that for weeks on end recently and not necessarily very successfully either, but that’s a different story. What I’m concerned about here is you know that I think I’m hearing a special circumstance about life and limb and it is a special circumstance, so I think there is every reason for us to be able to put forward a credible argument, err for the use of this site whereas the vast majority of the time my immediate reaction to building on greenbelt would be no under any circumstances, but I think life and limb are special circumstances, so I’m to support this.
CLLR ROY GLADDEN: Based upon what’s been said now, we’ve got, we’ve got a unanimity, we’ve got equality between all the political parties saying that a piece of green land in itself, shouldn’t be protected from that which we could make good use of.
What I’m concerned about is, you know, you know, it has to go from here of course, not just to
their own Authority, but it has to go to that different place down south, errm which can make some funny decisions and there’s also the fact that there’s [indiscernible – accent] you want. And I don’t mean funny ha ha either!
My concern is that you will again we’re going down the road, is there any possibility that we can bring things together, rather than wait for something to happen? And I’m talking about planning, errm permission to for the use of the greenbelt et cetera and run concurrent with each other to ensure that at least when we get to the end of it, over the ducks and in, in, in that road that need to be knocked down because I think for us to go through three months or four months errm and with but you know colleagues from the Wirral getting you know public opinion on their side and someone needs to say thank you very much, but no! It’s a green, it’s a piece of greenbelt and we’re not going to build on it!
So, if we get, is it possible to get sort of a nod and wink for how
possible whilst this is going on?
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Are you going to answer that?
DAN STEPHENS (CHIEF FIRE OFFICER, MERSEYSIDE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE): Just to reassure Councillor Gladden, in the event that the Authority approve this recommendation, a err, as I’ve said previously, I have written already to the Chief Executive of Wirral to ask that if they would consider releasing me the land to the Authority because clearly without that there is no, there is no proposal and we will engage with our colleagues within Wirral in relation to planning issues and do as much as we possibly can.
I think the err the point that was quite rightly advised by err the Clerk to the Authority in relation to this, it’s predetermination if we were to submit a planning application prior to Members having considered the outcomes of the public consultation.
Errm, what we don’t want to do is to in any way be seen to predetermine the outcome. I accept there’s two views to be taken, because if
there is a train of thought that says, well if you haven’t got the, you can’t get the planning permission and then you don’t have an option to be different in one sense than the transfer of the ownership of the land because clearly we don’t have that and we don’t have an option either.
But I do believe that thus far, the consultation processes that we’ve undertaken I believe have been done to an exemplary standard and I do believe that that’s something we need to continue to do.
The reputation of the Authority is, is very important to us all and you can be judicially reviewed for a myriad of different reasons and I just on balance, believe that the most expeditious route to take in the circumstances is that which a number of you are proposing and it is very much on the basis of advice that err we’ve been given from the Clerk to the Authority and err, and and others
externally, so I do believe that we will move this forward as quickly as it can be done in the circumstances which present the least risk to the the Authority.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): OK.
CLLR ROY GLADDEN: If I could come back Chair, I understood that one of the substantive issues that you meant by your talk and it’s an important issue, that people are fully aware that the proper consultation takes in hand so the Members of the Planning Committee take their views errm, in hand when they make the final decision.
What I was talking about, if we get to that stage and then it is in agreement, it then has to go back to London! It has to go to my knowledge as far as I know errm because it is in the greenbelt again to get authority.
Is it not possible for us whilst this is going on for at least then for those organisations that are down there to be aware of what we’re doing and to know that we’re not going to go through three or four months and then to just to be caving it in!
I don’t know if it is possible, I’m just asking for that opportunity!
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): I think.
CLLR ROY GLADDEN: It’s the Secretary of State that made that decision!
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Just to answer, I appreciate some of the issues over this and I think that while it’s involved we can’t try to reflect the progress made it’s sensible because of, because of the delay because obviously it’s going to have an impact on our budget, because it was unfortunate about the, the err delay and the consultation that has been undertaken so, I think we’ll do all we can to ensure that we can get everything we can from this but we can, there’s a statutory obligation to undertake the consultation process and we’ve gotta to go through that.
Finally, there’ll be the consultation on the planning process, which you know everybody who’s ever been a member of the planning committee will know the process and generally what that’ll be.
But I think the first instance for us to carry out our consultation process with the public, with the people from Saughall Massie Road, Greasby, Upton and West Kirby to ensure that they’re satisfied and they’re reassured that for us
this is the best operational location, that’s where we respond to any incident as quick as we possibly can. Errm, because you know while I know myself that the amount of sites that we looked at, we can prove special circumstances in this case, but it’s if the Secretary of State takes that into consideration, when he receives the errm the information in the application on this. It could get called in or it couldn’t, so all kinds of things could happen to err to delay this.
But I want to make sure that we do it, do it properly and do it right and get it together done as quickly as practically possible without any, without any difficulties.
Errm, it won’t come back to the Authority for a decision until June, so we’ve got that time period anyway, if it goes beyond that that’s when it’s the it’s going to start getting problematic. But rather at this moment in time, if we agree the proposals as recommended to you, part 3, 3A, errm you know we won’t start
for a couple of, we’re not going to start the consultation until the 2nd of March anyway and we need that lead in period in order to advertise the fact that we’re going to have public meetings, to give people sufficient notice for them to come along to give presentations and the like so response times and everything like that, but I think what we’re suggesting at the moment is to err, errm you know it’s the right way forward and all you can do you know in your conversations with others, you’ve got to allow the consultation to take place. Thanks.
CLLR LES BYROM (VICE-CHAIR): Yes, thank you Chair. Very good, I think taking off what you just said there, I think errm, if we politically round this table make a err a decision, effectively it’s an in principle decision, it relies upon Wirral if they sell us the land, then there’s the planning process.
You can be assured that our officers will do what is right, what is proper without leading to a suggestion of predetermination in the
background errm dealing with Wirral and I don’t know what you can do with DCLG, they’ll be going in to purdah before long and then they’ll be going into interregnum between governments! That actually it depends on whether they even want to call it in! You don’t know that! So, errm all we can do, we have to make the savings, we have to make the proper decisions from an operational point of view. That’s what we’re doing today. Then we’ll leave our officers to pursue errm all avenues without leading us into predetermination.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [indiscernible – away from microphone]
CLLR LES BYROM (VICE-CHAIR): That’s the other way of putting it!
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Excellent, we’ll go and help you out.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): Yeah, Ray?
CLLR RAY HALPIN: Errm, Chair I’d just like to revert to the rest of the Committee. She has more or less outlined exactly what’s needed for me to support it unanimous by all present political parties that are speaking and I’d like to record this report.
Thank you for that.
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): OK, are we happy with that, do we approve the recommendation?
VARIOUS COUNCILLORS: Yes! Agreed!
CLLR DAVE HANRATTY (CHAIR): OK, item 6 which is errm an exempt item so
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