Fire chief puts himself in the hot seat for public meeting

Pictures by: TONY COOMBES PHOTOGRAPHY Cllr Jeremy Birch (left) with protesters on The Ridge

Pictures by: TONY COOMBES PHOTOGRAPHY Cllr Jeremy Birch (left) with protesters on The Ridge

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THE DEPUTY chief fire officer will put himself in the hotseat next month facing the public for the first time over the controversial changes proposed for the Ridge Fire station.

Gary Walsh is expected to face a barrage of heated questions from residents concerned over the future of The Ridge Fire Station.

The meeting has been organised by the East Sussex Fire Authority and will be held at The Hastings Centre on The Ridge on November 7.

The authority wants the public to consider the key benefits it believes will be introduced if the proposed relocation of operational resources within the town and surrounding area is approved.

Public consultation on the proposals started September 14 after the Fire Authority considered the findings of a report regarding fire cover within Hastings Borough at its meeting on September 13.

The authority agreed to consult on relocating the full time fire appliance from the Ridge to Bohemia Road station and turning it into a retained station.

But the move sparked a huge outcry from residents with thousands voicing their concern in a petition and 400 turning out on a mass rally last Sunday.

On Tuesday county councillor Phil Scott put forward a motion at the full county council asking that the council supports the campaign to retain a full-time fire station. However it was not supported sufficiently to be carried on its own merit.

Cllr Scott: “I was disappointed that my motion was not carried. I thought it clear and concise and it looked to achieve what our community is saying to retain the station.

“I think Mr Walsh will face quite a diffult time. I expect a big turn out and I for one will have some very searching questions to ask him.”

Mr Walsh said: “At the meeting we want to explain to residents in Hastings what the key benefits are to the Hastings community if the proposed changes to service delivery are approved.

“It’s also an opportunity for us to clarify exactly what the changes would mean, answer any questions put to us and, hopefully, allay any concerns.

“We fully appreciate that people in Hastings, especially those living near The Ridge Fire Station, will naturally have some concerns about how the proposed changes may affect them.

“However, we would stress again that there are absolutely no plans to close The Ridge.” The meeting starts at 6.30pm