Grave concerns over rural fire cover as station to shut

FIRE chiefs have admitted more stations could be axed or relocated after agreeing to close the first base for a generation in England’s largest county.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority gave the go-ahead yesterday to shut Snainton station after the existing building, which dates back more than 50 years, has been deemed to be no longer fit for purpose.

It is the first closure of a fire base in North Yorkshire since a station at Whixley, near Boroughbridge, shut in the 1970s.

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The county’s brigade is battling a cash crisis amid funding cuts from Westminster, but senior fire officers were adamant the decision was not centred on cost-cutting measures. The closure of the station, to the east of Pickering, is part of a county-wide review and three other bases at Grassington, Summerbridge and Danby have all been spared the axe in the past two years.

However, it would have cost £600,000 to build a new station at Snainton and fire cover will now be provided by appliances situated in Whitby, Scarborough and Sherburn.

While there are no plans to close more stations at the moment, the brigade’s group manager Peter Hudson admitted further restructuring could take place under the review.

He claimed Scarborough’s station could eventually be relocated as it is situated on the coast and a base further inland could provide more effective emergency cover.

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He added: “We are having to bring the fire service into the modern era with more flexible working and a redistribution of resources.

“The closure of Snainton station will mean that it will take longer for appliances to get to incidents, but we feel that any additional risk is justified.

“The decision meets all standards set nationally and by the brigade itself. There are tough decisions that are having to be made, and the review will continue to look at all stations as and when it is appropriate.”

The brigade has 39 stations which are staffed either on a full-time or a part-time basis across North Yorkshire. Firefighters at Snainton went on an average of 37 call-outs for each of the last five years. It is hoped the seven-strong crew will be relocated to other bases to avoid redundancies, and the station is expected to shut within the next year.

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Coun David Jeffels, who represents the Derwent Valley ward on Scarborough Borough Council, maintained the decision to close the station could undermine fire cover in the area.

He said: “It is bitterly disappointing because residents and parish councillors had made an overwhelming case for it to remain open. I do believe the fire authority will come to regret the decision in the future.”

The brigade revealed in 2010 it was having to slash its budgets by up to £1m for each of the next four financial years to cope with funding cuts from the Government.