Rescuers search for cash as base axed in cuts

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A SEARCH and rescue team has mounted a major hunt for funds to build a new headquarters after its base fell victim to fire service cuts in West Yorkshire.

Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team’s home at Marsden fire station, near Huddersfield, is to be shut under a cost-cutting shake-up approved last month.

Assistant leader of the Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Owen Phillips raises a glass with brewer Sheila Sutton

Assistant leader of the Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Owen Phillips raises a glass with brewer Sheila Sutton

Assistant team leader Owen Phillips, from Holmfirth, said the decision had given the charity a “renewed sense of urgency” to relocate to a purpose-built replacement – but it needs to raise about £250,000 first.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s the case that Marsden has to close,” said Mr Phillips, 28.

“Given our status as tenants there’s not a great deal we can do about it, but it wasn’t an unexpected decision. We were already planning to build our own headquarters but this has just made it slightly more imperative.”

The team has rented two bays at the station since 2005, when it moved from its old base in Meltham. It now plans to relocate back to the town after planning permission was approved for new headquarters to be built at the Robert Ashton Memorial Park in Meltham last April.

But the team faces an anxious wait to find out when it must move, as West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has yet to confirm when Marsden station will close.

The charity – which relies on public donations to meet its £10,000 annual running costs – is frantically trying to raise the £250,000 needed to build a replacement before being made homeless.

“It has always been on our minds that Marsden can’t be a permanent home for us,” said Mr Phillips.

“Now we are looking with a renewed sense of urgency at raising the funds required, because the only barrier now to us building the new headquarters is actually finding the money.

“It would have been nice to have had a bit more time, certainly. Raising the sort of money we’re talking about, even with the concerted effort of the whole team trying to raise people’s awareness and make money, is still going to be a big feat in the timescale we’re looking at.

“We really want to be getting the majority of the money together towards the end of this year.”

A fundraising sub-committee has been set up to apply for grants towards the building project and the team hopes the widening role of mountain rescue teams in recent years will help to attract cash.

“Given the rise in recent years of more climate-influenced conditions – flooding and that sort of thing – more and more, mountain rescue is being relied upon as a civil contingency measure by the Government and we will be called in to work alongside other emergency services,” said Mr Phillips.

“Those sorts of incidents are not isolated up on the moors and the crags – our work is becoming more urban now and we are hoping that will make grants more accessible to us.”

The community is also rallying to help – with money already being raised by selling a special ale brewed by The Nook Brewhouse in Holmfirth.

A 10p donation from every pint of Rescue Red sold by the pub and The Woodman Inn in Kirkburton will go towards the appeal.

“We are very grateful for their assistance,” said Mr Phillips. “Aside from the money we’ll get as a result of the beer being on sale, it’s also something that raises the profile of the team.

“Every time people see Rescue Red on the bar it reminds them that we’re there and we rely on the public to keep up running.”

A sponsored climbing event will also take place at Huddersfield Sports Centre on January 27.

Details of how to get involved or support the appeal can be found on the charity’s website – www.holmevalleymrt.org.uk.

“Anybody who enjoys the outdoors has obviously got an interest in us being there for the future,” said Mr Phillips, “but I would like to hope that the community as a whole can remember the wider role we play.

“We are all volunteers who give up our time, not just on incidents but on training, and we are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to incidents and hopefully save lives.

“We are now in a position where we really need the support of the public more than ever.”