Chief Fire Officer recommends new fire station at Saughall Massie and closure of fire stations at West Kirby and Upton
There are four agenda items on the agenda of next week’s Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority public meeting that relate to the decision about the future of West Kirby Fire Station and Upton Fire Station.
First (item 3) is a petition asking for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority to “Stop the building of the Fire Station in Saughall Massie and the destruction of precious green belt land”. At the time of writing this petition on the change.org website has 321 signatures. The comments of the signatories can be read here.
According to section 11.3 of the constitution for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority:
“The presentation of a petition shall be limited to not more than 5 minutes and shall be confined to reading out or summarising the subject of the petition indicating the number and description of the signatories, and making such further supporting remarks relevant to the petition as the person presenting it shall think fit.”
Item 4 is a “deputation in relation to the merger of Upton and West Kirby fire stations”. This is described on the agenda as “To consider a deputation of Wirral residents and Councillors concerning the proposed merger of Upton and West Kirby Fire Stations at the site identified in Saughall Massie.”
Section 11.4 to 11.7 of the constitution deal with the procedure for deputations:
“11.4 Any person likely to be affected by a matter in relation to which the Authority has functions, (other than employees in relation to matters of conditions of service) may ask that a deputation should be received by a meeting of the Authority. Such a request shall be made to the Proper Officer at least seven working days before the meeting to which it relates. The person making the request shall indicate the matter to which the request relates, the number (which shall not be more than five names and addresses of the persons who will form the deputation, and the member or members of the deputation who will speak for them).
11.5 On being called by the Person Presiding, the person or persons speaking for the deputation may make, during a period not exceeding five minutes, such remarks as she/he or they think fit, providing that the remarks shall relate to the matter indicated.
11.6 The Members of the Authority may, during a further period not exceeding five minutes for each deputation, ask questions of the members of the deputation. Such questions shall be asked and
answered without discussion.
11.7 Petitions shall be presented, and deputations received in the order in which notice of them is received by the Proper Officer, without making any distinction between petitions and deputations.”
Agenda item 7 is titled Wirral West Fire Cover Consultation 2 outcomes. The reports for this agenda item come to 236 pages!
Finally agenda item 8 (operational response savings options for Wirral) is the agenda item when an actual decision will be made.
This agenda item comprises of a report detailing the Chief Fire Officer’s recommendations to councillors (the following is quoted from the report and is the Chief Fire Officer’s recommendation (Wirral MBC stands for Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council and fire appliance means fire engine):
“a. approve the merger of Upton and West Kirby fire stations at a new station on Saughall Massie Road, subject to agreement from Wirral MBC to transfer ownership of the land to the Authority and the granting of planning permission;
b. approve the relocation of the West Kirby fire appliance to Upton to be crewed wholetime retained as an interim measure prior to the construction of the new station
c. amend the capital programme to incorporate the Saughall Massie fire station scheme; and
d. give delegated authority to the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) to continue discussions with partners, including Merseyside Police and North West Ambulance Service, with a view to sharing the new building.”
There are of course other options that are in theory available to councillors (but I’ll make it clear these are options which the Chief Fire Officer doesn’t recommend). These other options include the outright closure of West Kirby Fire Station and the relocation of the West Kirby fire engine to Upton Fire Station.
Due to the sheer volume of responses to this consultation, whatever I write below is going to leave something out. However I will do my best to summarise some of the responses to the consultation.
I had better also declare an interest at this point, as in the report on press articles/letters to the press on page 4 Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority have included the blog post I wrote on the 20th April 2015 headlined Public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie on proposed new fire station (along with three comments written by Alan Dransfield, keef666 and Jean).
The people of Saughall Massie are opposed to a fire station being built at the proposed site (currently owned by Wirral Council) on Saughall Massie Road. There are a variety of reasons given ranging from traffic, green belt issues, noise/disturbance and concerns that building on the Saughall Massie Road site is inadvisable due to regular flooding.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service paid Opinion Research Services £19,195.00 (a spin out company of Swansea University) to do a report for the consultation. Their 49 page report details the results of a range of polling techniques including focus groups, a forum and a postal residents survey.
The deliberative forum for Saughall Massie found opposition to a new fire station there. Most of the group they asked from Upton were also opposed to the use of a greenbelt site at Saughall Massie, but at the same time supported a new fire station in the Saughall Massie area. The West Kirby group & the all Wirral forum were in favour of the Saughall Massie site being used for a new fire station. However ORS does state “deliberative forums cannot be certified as statistically representative samples of public opinion”.
A postal questionnaire was also sent out by ORS to 10,000 households (5,000 to the West Kirby Fire Station area and 5,000 to the Upton Fire Station area). Out of the 1,351 postal questionnaires that were returned a majority in both Upton (51%) and West Kirby (70%) areas went for option one (merging Upton and West Kirby fire stations by building a new fire station in Saughall Massie).
However these findings come with caveats as ORS also state:
“However, consultation is not a numbers game, in which the majority view necessarily prevails (like in a referendum), so the Fire Authority will wish to consider carefully all the arguments, evidence and considerations relevant to this case before taking its decision based upon its assessment of the public good.”
Here are some quotes from the members of the public that responded to the consultation and a link to the full 40 page document:
“As a resident of West Kirby and a mother of three young children I object to the proposals to close West Kirby fire station.
This is a ridiculous and dangerous proposal and directly increases the risk of death, from a house fire, to my family.”
“Also please provide a credible reason as to why, in a democratic and fair society, the residents of Saughall Massie’s overwhelming feelings of resistance to this proposed fire station are being overridden by the local Labour Council when equal or lesser feelings of resistance by those in Greasby were considered in full and their request to reject the proposed building of this facility (on a brown field site) was granted.”
“I live next to Saughall Massie Road and during the morning and evening “rush hours” it’s very heavily congested to a far greater extent than other local roads at these times. ”
“I object to the proposed fire station in Saughall Massie because:-
- lives could be lost as Saughall Massie Road is already congested. Between 8am and 9.30am Mon-Fri – severe congestion
- no open space for dogs & horses to run free
- our properties will de-value
- damage to wildlife habitats”
“Re Fire Station Saughall Massie Road
I would like to register my disapproval at the above. Building on Greenbelt land is out of order.”
“I would hope that you agree that Monday night’s fiasco did not satisfy the criteria as a meaningful consultation exercise. Having said that, you must be aware that the overwhelming views of the residents, both inside and on the pavement outside, was that this development does not take place at all within our precious ‘Green Belt’.”
“Proposal for a fire station, Saughall Massie, Wirral
I am writing to express my concerns over the proposal to build a fire station on the greenbelt land at Saughall Massie. I live directly opposite the suggested site and am disappointed to learn of this proposal which I personally use at least twice a day to both exercise my dog and meet up with other local residents. There is also a great deal of wildlife and the beautiful Jenny’s Wood. There are water voles, bats, owls to name a few and I am sure that many of these beautiful creatures will be affected by this build if it goes ahead.
I wish to register that I am totally opposed to the build and wish my feelings to be noted.”
The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will make a decision on the future of the fire stations at Upton and West Kirby at a public meeting starting at 1.00pm on Tuesday 30th June 2015 in the Liverpool Suite, ground floor, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters, Bridle Road, Bootle, L30 4YD. The agenda and reports for that meeting can be found on their website.
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