West Sussex fire service changes set for new year

Fire engine
Image caption Fire stations at Littlehampton and Burgess Hill will be upgraded in the first week of January

Two West Sussex fire stations will be upgraded in January and three facing closure are expected to shut in March, the county fire officer has said.

Changes to the service were approved this month, and Max Hood said work to implement the changes could now begin.

He said the changes would modernise the service and save £1.2m.

The Retained Firefighters' Union (RFU) and Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have both said campaigners who opposed the plans were not listened to.

'Difficult process'

Mr Hood said a risk map had showed the need to increase resources at Littlehampton and Burgess Hill fire stations, which are being upgraded.

He said low call activity and good alternative cover had proved there was no evidence to support keeping Bosham, Keymer and Findon fire stations open.

Dates have now been scheduled for the changes to take place, in January and March.

Mr Hood said: "It has been a difficult process for some of our firefighters, and the decision to close the station where they work is absolutely no reflection on the great service they have given."

He added: "The service will continue to offer support as we discuss their future with them."

'Stretched service'

Tristan Ashby, from the RFU, has previously said that with three fewer fire stations and dozens fewer retained firefighters, people in West Sussex will not be safer.

He claimed response standards would only get worse and more money would have to be spent on upgrading stations.

Mick Cambers, from the FBU, said night cover was being degraded, response standards were getting worse, and the improvement plan would leave the county with a "stretched service".

West Sussex County Council approved the fire service improvement plan earlier in November.

Councillor Peter Evans, cabinet spokesman for public protection, who approved the plan, said the brigade would be more effective, public safety would be improved and resources would be used more effectively.

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