BATTLE Fire Station has been saved.
The station had been at risk of being downgraded to retained status - with the loss of nine wholetime firefighters - as East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service strives to find savings of £7.1m.
At a meeting in at the ESFRS headquarters in Eastbourne yesterday (Thursday), Fire Authority members were asked to decide whether to downgrade the station (Option 2b), or approve an alternative proposal (Option 2a) to boost cover at Battle but at the expense of The Ridge Fire Station, which would lose its retained fire engine.
During the lively meeting, members heard from Rother representative Stuart Earl, who made an impassioned speech in favour of keeping Battle as a full time station.
Cllr Earl said: “I attended a meeting in Battle and listened very carefully to all the residents who spoke extremely passionately about their concerns, not just about firefighter issues but the A21 being one of the most dangerous roads in the UK.
“I also listened to their own concerns for others and not just their own safety.
“In the rural areas and villages around Battle some of the access is difficult through narrow lanes.
“The main concern I have is if we go through with some of the proposals and put them into force, I’m very concerned some of the skills will be lost from the full-time firefighters we have.
“It’s all very well to have retained crew but it’s a nightmare to get across Battle at certain times.”
He added: “I feel that anyone using the A21 needs to have the quick response, not just from us but from all blue light services, because that emergency response time could mean a life lost or someone seriously injured.
“I would support 2a and would very much hope others do the same.”
The meeting heard an alternative 2a proposal had been put forward by Battle’s firefighters themselves.
The alternative 2a suggested that the service could save money by losing the appliance at The Ridge, but instead of increasing the wholetime staff at Battle to 12, instead use competent retained crew to cover weekends.
Hastings representative Cllr Peter Pragnell said: “We should give our thanks to Marc Wise and his team at Battle as they are the only team that produced a practical, cost-effective alternative.”
But he added: “But I am uncomfortable with the idea of removing a retained pump from Hastings.”
Fire Authority members voted 11 to 7 to approve the amended Option 2a, saving Battle Fire Station from downgrading.
Hastings member Cllr Phil Scott, who has been outspoken against any cuts to the local fire service in East Sussex, criticised ESFRS for forcing members to choose between the two towns.
Speaking outside the meeting, he said: “I think it’s quite shameful that the two towns have been put against each other.
“It’s been quite divisive at times in the process.
“Obviously Battle, at the end of the day, want to make sure they retain their day crewed station and they have adequate cover out in these areas.”
He added: “Clearly there is a strength of feeling by Battle residents that 2a should prevail, but it’s been really divisive and I’m really angry about that.”