The fight to save Colyton’s fire station has accelerated. On Monday I joined a protest of over 100 people, making the headlines on TV news, while over 1200 people have signed an online petition in the last 6 days. As a delegation heads today to the Fire Authority’s meeting which will decide whether to proceed with the consultation, Paul Arnott, district councillor for Coly Valley, and I have written to all members of the Fire Authority urging them to refuse the closure proposals.
On Tuesday I also got the County Council’s Scrutiny Committee to invite the Fire Authority to our next meeting in September to justify any proposals they agree. Colyton campaigners will be able to present their views to the committee.
Letter to Fire Authority members:
Dear Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service Authority Member
We are writing to all councillors on the Authority in relation to your meeting this Friday to discuss endorsing the closure of 8 fire stations and a proposed subsequent consultation over the “options” about how this would be enacted. Thank you for your time taken in considering our points below.
We wish to urge you to refuse to agree to these closure proposals at your meeting and to cancel the consultation. Our experience in similar matters is that the consultation phase of any such process is less about seeking enlightenment from the public and more about lending legitimacy to a done deal.
We advocate here in particular on behalf of the Colyton Fire Station, whose staff we know and admire:
• The 12 retained firefighters include 3 women, one as a senior manager, and another woman ready to fill the next vacancy. This is well in excess of the D&SF&RS average which stands at 5%
• The Colyton pump often takes part in call-outs to fire and traffic incidents in co-operation with other Axe Valley stations at Axminster and Seaton. It is a fact that the number of homes across the Axe Valley will increase hugely in the next few years. Axminster is subject to a “Masterplan” with a thousand new homes in mind. Seaton is outside the AONB and still has capacity for hundreds more houses. Colyton, under the 2018 EDDC Villages Development Plan, is one of a handful of settlements in the district required to take new housing. A number of major schemes are in the pipeline in Colyton, including the Homes England plan for 70 homes at the old Ceramtec factory, and the Town Mill development of 8 light industrial units. In short, the demand for a local fire service is about to boom across the Axe Valley. This is not the time to cut.
• The Colyton fire station has a unique skillset having to cover an ancient Tannery, many thatched houses and listed buildings, and remote village settlements along difficult and narrow lanes in places such as Shute, Whitford, Musbury, Umborne, Northleigh and, Southleigh. It is the only station in the area to possess the higher SHACS level 2 qualification to execute a Safety and Height Ability in Confined Spaces operation.
• We are very alarmed at the nature of some of the evidence being provided in support of the argument for closure. To take just one example, the station profile for Colyton states that a Colyton pump cannot reach Seaton within 10 minutes. Yet the station profile for Seaton states that its own pump can reach Colyton within 10 minutes. The disparity between these two assertions gives little confidence in the care being taken with the evidence base presented to councillors on the authority in making such a crucial decision. It is also obvious that insufficient analysis has been done to identify and respect the extraordinary specifically local skills and knowledge which will be lost if this process is executed.
We are certain that our views expressed here reflect those of the great majority of Colyton and Colyford people, and again urge you to refuse to endorse the proposed plan.
With thanks again.
Paul Arnott (District Councillor, Coly Valley) Martin Shaw (County Councillor, Seaton & Colyton)