City leaders raise concerns over bid to axe Southsea fire engine

READY Fire engines outside of Southsea Fire Station.
READY Fire engines outside of Southsea Fire Station.
M27. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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PLANS to axe a fire engine in Southsea are now ‘on the back burner’ after city leaders expressed safety fears.

As reported, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service needs to make £7m of savings, and is looking at removing one appliance from Southsea.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it had expected to take part in a consultation for the proposal this autumn, but the fire service has backed off for now.

Nigel McCullen, chairman of the Hampshire FBU, said: ‘The service saw the reaction to its proposal and they put it back. They haven’t said it’s never going to happen but they have taken away the threat for next year. It’s gone on to the back burner at the moment but we’ve got our eye on it.’

He added the service is to look again at the plan next year. The pump, which was moved over from Copnor fire station when it closed, is staffed by 16 firefighters over four different ‘watches’.

It is unclear what would happen to the firefighters who currently staff the engine.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said he met with chief fire officer John Bonney, to express his concerns.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘My worry is we are a city where we have high-rise buildings, with more to come in the future.

‘We have given planning permission for several more tall buildings.

‘To my understanding, if Southsea lost an engine, there wouldn’t be enough appliances in Portsmouth to be able to attend high-rise buildings.

‘I don’t think this is acceptable and could put people at risk. They already closed Copnor fire station, and part of that was that the engine there would go to Southsea.

‘We can’t afford to lose coverage in the city.’

And Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said he also met with the chief fire officer.

Mr Hancock said: ‘The fire officer told me about the small fires vehicle that has been introduced in Southsea.

‘That is good to attend smaller incidents, but not bigger ones.

‘The concern is whether we can get to the right part of the city in the right time.

‘I raised concerns that because of congestion from time to time, it may prove difficult to move appliances around the city.’

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: ‘The service remains committed to maintaining the best possible cover for our communities, despite ongoing reductions in government funding.’