Cleckheaton fire station to be closed despite concerns raised

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Cleckheaton fire station will be closed, with staff and facilities moved to Birkenshaw, after Councillors approved the move today.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service revealed plans to move the area’s fire cover to a new facility at its Birkenshaw headquarters earlier this year, and over Summer the scheme went out to public consultation.

At a meeting of West Yorkshire Fire Authority, members voted to support the plans, but many members raised concerns.

And a bid to defer the decision was narrowly defeated.

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Cleckheaton fire stationCleckheaton fire station
Cleckheaton fire station

Cleckheaton station is one of the oldest in West Yorkshire, and the service says it is in need of modernising, It would cost £2.9 million to rebuild the station on the existing site.

The Fire Service said moving it to Birkenshaw would only cost £1.3m. And the Cleckheaton site could then be sold for an estimated £375,000.

It would also improve response times in more “high risk” areas covered by the station – including parts of South Bradford.

At the meeting, made up of members from all five West Yorkshire Councils, were told the results of the consultation.

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Over 230 people took part in the consultation – which was mainly held online due to the Covid pandemic.

Officers said that this was one of the highest response rates to any recent consultation.

Of those who responded 53 per cent disagreed with the plans. Objectors raised concerns ranging from impact of the move on traffic around Birkenshaw, impact on motorway rescues and response times to call outs.

At the meeting Nick Smith, Director of Service, told members that many communities would see improved response times, but acknowledged some “low risk” areas would see longer response times from the new base than at Cleckheaton.

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But he said all response times would remain at acceptable levels.

He pointed out that there would be no job losses, and the station was effectively moving rather than closing.

He said: “The capacity delivered out of Clekcheaton will be kept, it will be the same staff with the same skills operating the same appliances, but now delivered from Birkenshaw.”

Cleckheaton is the base for the Service’s Technical Rescue Unit – often used for motorway crashes. Members were also assured that response times to motorway incidents would not be badly impacted by the move.

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When the plans were first proposed, Bradford Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) had asked that members be presented with a traffic impact assessment before members made the decision.

She said Cleckheaton station were called out around 850 to 900 times a year, and the area around Birkenshaw had enough capacity to cope with this increase in activity.

She replied: “I’m disappointed that you haven’t produced this and it is just a verbal report. I had made a specific request.”

She suggested that members defer the decision until a traffic report for the site is produced, adding: “Whenever we do something like this there are winners and losers. To be fair to everyone we should have seen a full traffic impact assessment.”

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However, the suggestion to defer did not receive enough votes.

Chair Councillor Darren O’Donovan (Lab, Dewsbury West) said: “This move provides the area with better risk cover, meets the needs of the future and improves our ability to address risks.”

Councillor Angela Wenham (Lab, Roundhey) said: “When a re-location normally takes place there is normally a loss of jobs. In this case there is no reduction in staff and no reduction in engines.”

Members then voted to approve the move.

A planning application is likely to be needed to develop the new station within the Birkenshaw headquarters.

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