Councillors have given a mixed reaction to controversial proposals to axe Hunslet Fire Station and merge it with one in Morley.
A proposal announced last month could see Morley’s station on Corporation Street close, along with Hunslet Fire Station on Dewsbury Road. The stations would then be merged and relocated on a site midway between the two current stations – possibly in the Ring Road/White Rose Centre area.
There are currently two engines housed at Hunslet Station and one in Morley – and the merger would see the loss of one of the engines.
West Yorkshire Fire Service Leeds District Commander Nick Smith told members of the Inner South Area Committee last night the success of the brigade’s fire safety work over the past decade meant that there was real scope for change and that investment in infrastructure would allow him to relocate fire stations and resources to ‘more optimum’ locations.
He said that fire deaths and injuries are at an all-time low – and that there had been a 30% reduction of incidents in the region over the past five years.
Mr Smith said work in educating people about fire safety and providing and fitting fire alarms had led to the reduction.
But councillors at the meeting, held at Holbeck Working Men’s Club, gave a mixed response to his assurances that people’s safety would not be compromised by the merger. A 12-week public consultation into the proposals has started.
City and Hunslet councillor Elizabeth Nash said:
“I understand the need to save money in the light of budget cuts, but I can’t come terms with merging stations to save money – presumably you’ll be having fewer firefighters – and then building new stations at a cost of millions of pounds. How is that saving money?”
Mr Rose said the Fire Service was attempting to reduce its revenue expenditure in the light of budget cuts. He said the government had specific capital grants which could fund new stations and that the sale of the existing stations would go straight into Fire Service coffers.
Middleton Park councillor Judith Blake said:
“A lot of people will require assurances that their service will continue as it is. I am concerned that the work you do in communities will be affected. It takes time to work with older people and in schools.
“There are some really serious question marks about whether you are going to be too stretched to deliver these services.”
Mr Rose added:
“We will not lose our focus on this. That will continue to be our focus.”
He said that the Fire Service would continue to work with partner organisations to deliver education and things like smoke alarms.
A South Leeds Life poll at the start of September saw 66% of respondents say Hunslet Fire Station should remain open.
Also at area committee:
Councillors heard a progress report on the proposals for Leeds Trolleybus (NGT) scheme, which recently won government funding. Councillors heard the scheme would run from a park and ride at Stourton through Hunslet, into the city centre and out through Headingley, up to a park and ride at Bodington and through to Holt Park.
Cllr Nash had concerns of ‘considerable’ disruption to the city if the work for the whole route was done at the same time. She proposed the Penny Hill Centre stop be named the ‘Hunslet Library’ stop.
Middleton Park councillor Paul Truswell spoke of his concern for the impact on local residents if one of the access points to the park and ride came through Belle Isle.
It was hoped that the trolleybus scheme would lead to a number of improvements around the Penny Hill Centre and library.
Councillors also approved a number of grants to wellbeing projects, including £5,000 to the Friday Night Project Back Yard Breeze, £3,952 to West Yorkshire Police off-road bikes and £790 for new bollards on Atha Street, Beeston.