Shock closure of East Cowes Fire Station “not related” to budget pressures

By Carole Dennett May 9, 2024
pic: East Cowes Fire Station Twitter

Councillor Karl Love has slammed the shock closure of East Cowes Fire Station today.

He claims that he, Cllr Karen Lucioni, cabinet member for community protection, and the station’s retained firefighters were informed about the closure with only “a few hours notice” and no real efforts have been made to keep the service in East Cowes.

Senior officers from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) asked to meet both councillors yesterday evening and told them and local firefighters the station must close immediately because a survey has shown the building to be unsafe, with the fire engine and all equipment to be moved to Newport today.

Cllr Karl Love

Cllr Love claims the authority has failed to maintain or repair the station on York Avenue, which the new joint authority knew was in a poor state of repair when they took it over with monitoring equipment in place ever since. He added that when asked why they had not tried to find an alternative temporary base, he was told they had “spoken to a couple of people” but had been unable to find a suitable location.

When the two fire services merged in 2001, the IW Council was assured that the 11 Island stations would be brought up to mainland standards. It was on that basis that the council supported the merger, and the properties were handed over into ownership of the new body. Cllr Love said: “They claim they’ve been looking for other places in East Cowes, but never approached me, as the ward councillor, or the town council, to ask for our support so they haven’t been looking very hard.

“There’s more flammable liquid here in East Cowes per square mile than anywhere else on the Island. We have a new fuel depot at Whippingham. We have major risks associated with companies that store large amounts of inflammable materials, Island ferries, a power station and an important coastline with lots of boats and yet we don’t have a fire station from today. I’m absolutely disgusted.”

He believes the development is “closure by stealth” of the East Cowes Fire Station. He has asked for confirmation in writing that they will return the fire engine to East Cowes as soon as possible after the completion of building works, adding: “I bet the repairs will never happen because that’s how they close services.”

Cllr Lucioni confirmed that she knew the building was being monitored for safety and added: “The condition of the fire station means that HIWFRS can no longer operate from there for safety reasons. The actions being taken are based on immediate building safety and no long-term decisions are being considered at this stage. The community of East Cowes will continue to be protected by Newport and neighbouring stations.”

When it increased the precept this year, a spokesman for HIWFRS said it faced a potential £4 million budget shortfall next year. Cllr Lucioni said this development was not related to the statement on the budget and she is seeking assurances that the station will be rebuilt and will be making sure it happens.

Glenn Bowyer, Director of Operations at HIWFRS, said: “East Cowes fire station has significant structural issues. The building has suffered with subsidence and subsequent underpinning has resolved the movement, however the residual damage has left the building in an unmaintainable state.

“The safety of our crews and the community is our priority. We have been linking in with local organisations to see if we can find a temporary location that the East Cowes crews can operate from, but at present no suitable site has been identified.  We will therefore be temporarily relocating the East Cowes fire engine to Newport and the East Cowes crews will carry out their drill nights and train there. We are also working with crews at East Cowes to enable them to mobilise from Newport when there is an incident.

“At this stage our focus is on implementing an immediate temporary solution, no long-term decisions have been made.

“As we go through this process, we will keep our crews and communities, who will continue to be protected by Newport and neighbouring stations, informed of any updates.”

Cllr Love has appealed for any businesses or building owners who may be able to provide a temporary home for the fire engine and equipment to contact him on karl.love@iwcouncil.gov.uk.