Villagers and unions set for Heacham fire station closure fight

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service carried out an investigation into the fire
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service carried out an investigation into the fire
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Community leaders and union officials say they are ready to fight proposals to close two West Norfolk fire stations when a public consultation gets underway.

Residents will be asked for their views on the plans to shut the sites in Heacham and Outwell, as part of Norfolk County Council plans to cut spending by more than £120 million over the next three years.

Although the consultation has yet to formally begin, residents in Heacham have already begun their campaign for a reprieve.

The parish council is urging villagers to write to their borough and county council representatives, as well as MP Henry Bellingham, to call for a re-think of the plan.

And the authority’s chairman, Michael Williamson, said today: “I am very hopeful we will be able to do something about it.”

It emerged last month that Heacham was among 11 fire stations, including four in West Norfolk, that were at risk of closure if a 25 per cent cut had to be made to the Norfolk Fire Service’s budget.

Although many of the most severe measures were abandoned earlier this week, the closure of Heacham and Outwell remains on the agenda, as well as a proposal to remove second engines from retained stations were there is currently more than one crew.

But critics fear the Heacham proposal, if implemented, would have a knock-on effect on a far wider area than simply the village itself.

Mr Williamson said that, while the mood of opposition to the plan remained as strong as ever in Heacham, there was also a need to campaign against the plan on behalf of neighbouring communities.

He said: “Everybody I have spoken to has said what an idiotic idea.”

Kevin Game, secretary of Norfolk’s Fire Brigades Union branch, said the plan to close Heacham was unusual because it is a fairly busy station.

He said: “Whatever money they can save by closing it, there’s still going to be a cost because neighbouring stations are going to be picking up their class. We’ll be doing that analysis.”

Mr Game said union bosses had been in contact with Heacham crew members, who are “disappointed and angry” that their base remains under threat.

But he said the union would wait until the formal consultation document is released before they start drafting their formal response to the proposals.

He added: “There’s going to be a lot of hard work over the next few months but we’re up for the challenge.”

The county council is now set to hold a three-month consultation on its budget proposals, which officials have said they intend to launch this week.

While around £50 million of cuts now look set to be avoided, the consultation will seek residents’ views on a proposed 1.95 per cent council tax rise, in order to raise an extra £6 million for services.

The consultation will run until mid-January. The council’s final budget will be set in February.

Comments can be emailed to before the consultation begins.