'Lives at risk' over proposed Battle fire service changes

Fire engine (generic) East Sussex Fire Authority is due to make a decision in June

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People living in Battle have expressed concerns that proposed changes to the fire service might put lives at risk.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is consulting on four proposals, in a bid to save £7m.

One of the options is to downgrade Battle fire station from a day crew of full-time firefighters to retained staff on call.

The fire authority is due to make a decision over which option to instigate in June.

Another proposal involves removing a fire engine from Preston Circus in Brighton or from Hove fire station, cutting 24 posts

The third involves the proposed changes at Battle and the Ridge fire station in Hastings, on the grounds that few incidents are handled by these stations alone.

The final proposal considers whether firefighters should stay in on-site accommodation at the Ridge and at Brighton's Roedean fire station, with the loss of 20 jobs, to provide around-the-clock cover.

'Uniquely placed'

Concerned Battle residents said they would march later in protest at the proposals.

Lead campaigner Helen Ashenheim said the town currently had two crews - an immediate response crew and a retained one.

She said she understood cuts had to be made, but added: "It's where the sword falls that's the important thing".

"Battle is uniquely placed, it covers to the north, east and west and sometimes the south - it sometimes supports the Hastings crews as well.

"If you remove that strategically-placed fire station, then you are literally risking so many people's lives."

Fire authority chairman Phil Howson said there were "significantly fewer" call outs than in previous years.

"This is in part due to the success of our work in preventing fires and other emergencies," he said.

"We are also facing cuts in our budgets. Last July we put this at a figure of £7.1 million over the next five years.

"These two factors together make it the right time to look at how we deliver services in East Sussex and Brighton and Hove to make sure that the right options are pursued."

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