Plan to merge Crawley and Horley fire stations

CRAWLEY and Horley fire stations could merge in a bid to help meet savings targets of £2.5million set out by West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service for 2013/14.

At a meeting of the West Crawley County Local Committee on Thursday (June 28) Peter Martin, District Commander of Crawley and Mid Sussex, said a public consultation would be launched detailing proposals for the savings.

He said one proposal was to merge Crawley and Horley fire crews which would see eight posts axed.

Mr Martin said the fire service had to think of new ways to save money after the merger between West Sussex and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service fell through.

Currently Horley fire station costs West Sussex £1.1million per year to run.

Mr Martin said: “One of the options would be to merge the Crawley and Horley fire crews together to create a much larger watch station at Crawley. We can still match attendance times to Gatwick and our response times of 8-11 minutes. We feel that may well be a good way forward and we will consult staff on that proposal.

“That would see a reduction of posts.

“At the moment Crawley station has two emergency response vehicles and a part-time fire engine, Horley also keeps a emergency response vehicle. In West Sussex we have eight in total and we are looking at if we need to keep one at Horley and is it best placed.

“Crawley would be maintained and have three emergency vehicles, that is a fairly exciting option at the moment but it is early days and nothing will happen until we have the results from the consultation.”

Cllr Chris Oxlade (Lab, Ifield) said he was concerned at how Crawley fire station would cope with the expansion.

Last year plans for a new, bigger fire station at Cheals roundabout in Broadfield collapsed after West Sussex County Council said no money had been set aside for fire fighters to move from their premises on Ifield Drive.

Cllr Oxlade said: “Just on infrastructure, you are talking about having three pumps at the current station, there is not room for that at the moment.”

Mr Martin said: “We have to look at the accommodation that we have at the existing building in Crawley.

“One is mobilising vehicles at Crawley - vehicles are free to roam in the area. The situation is, that it still is our aspiration to get a new fire station in Crawley at some time.

“We will have to make it work.”

Horley station receives 120 calls per year for Crawley and West Sussex and 270 for Surrey – because of this Surrey gives West Sussex £75,000 per year.

One of the proposals is to ask Surrey to up this amount which if agreed could mean the fire stations stay as they are.

Mr Martin said: “If Surrey could cough up £500k then we could carry on how we are.”

Mr Martin said the consultation documents would also detail other savings proposals.

He added: “We are very much looking forward to hearing people’s views. It is challenging times, but also exciting times.”

The consultation will begin on July 12 until September 21. There will be information available for residents nearer the time on West Sussex County Council’s website.