A controversial £3m fire station built in the green belt at Mollington near Chester is expected to open early next year.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service must make £5.1m savings over the next four years but is investing in four new stations across the county as well as a safety centre.
The service says having the new stations in the best locations, including being able to deal with motorway incidents, will lead to a better use of resources.
That’s one of the reasons why the Mollington station, which includes five bays and a training tower, is located near the M56.
But campaigners were against the station’s green belt location saying it did not meet the ‘very special circumstances’ test and simply represents a cut in the number of full-time engines covering Chester and Ellesmere Port from four to three.
Under the plans, Chester and Ellesmere Port will have just one full-time engine each instead of two now, with a back-up pump at the new hub. There will also be an ‘on call’ fire engine at Ellesmere Port.
Cheshire Fire Brigades Union is concerned this is spreading fire cover ‘a little thinner’ because many incidents require a minimum two fire engines for safe working.
Former council planner Ray McHale, who argued against the fire station plan, told The Chronicle: “It was an outrageous planning decision that this was allowed in the green belt. There were numerous other sites available along the A5117 which were already subject to development. But this agricultural field was so much cheaper. The only reason for building it is so they can cut the number of full-time fire-fighters and fire engines available.”
Cheshire chief fire officer Paul Hancock said recently: “I am delighted that despite the fact the authority is facing ongoing financial cuts, it has still agreed to invest in our frontline response and instead of closing stations, fund more.
“There are still big challenges ahead but the commitment to protecting local communities, reducing risk and maintaining firefighters’ safety is paramount. That is ensuring that the overall number of fires in Cheshire continues to decline while injuries in accidental house fires remain at their lowest ever level.”
A Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said it was hoped the new fire station, off Powey Lane, Mollington, would be operational early next year.
It will house a traditional fire engine but also a number of specialist vehicles to deal with risks specific to Chester and Ellesmere Port relating to heritage buildings and industrial complexes.
Meanwhile, Cheshire Fire Authority met today (Wednesday, September 21) to discuss proposals in private concerning the future Chester Fire Station in St Anne Street, Newtown, although it is believed the decision was deferred.
The agenda item stated: “This report contains details of various potential options which it is hoped could lead to: the construction of a new fire station on part of the existing fire station site; and the sale of the surplus part of the existing fire station site to a developer.”
Student accommodation is believed to be one option that could be pursued by the developer.