Firefighters in Bosham have voiced their disgust after their fire station was officially given the axe as part of a major reshuffle of resources around the county.
It signals the end of a public consultation which started in July over the major revamp of fire and rescue services in West Sussex – reported to save the service £1.2m a year.
It is claimed there will be ‘major improvements,’ with changes bringing operations into the 21st century by ensuring fire stations, fire engines and firefighters are matched to ‘changing risks’ across the county.
The fire service has said Bosham can be covered by neighbouring stations such as Chichester, because it is a low-risk area and has relatively few call-outs.
But that is not a view shared by the firefighters who feel the area is being short-changed by the decision which will save £90,000 a year. The station is expected to close by the first week of April.
Crew manager at Bosham Darren Morrison said: “How can they mask it as an improvement of services?
“It’s like shutting Chichester hospital but saying it will be better at Worthing hospital. But it won’t be for the people in Chichester.
“Unfortunately it will take something to happen to prove they are wrong.
“Part of me feels the decision was made from day one.”
The decision was made by West Sussex county councillor for public protection Peter Evans, who, as part of the fire service proposals, also closed Findon and Keymor stations.
There was a suggestion the station could be ‘mothballed’ for a year, but it was not accepted.
Cllr Evans said: “Our fire and rescue service has put together a package of proposals that will improve public safety and make it more effective in the long term.
“It will make resources more effective by reflecting the changing risks in West Sussex.
“Higher-risk areas will be protected, improving safety for vulnerable people, and there will be overall improvements of response times across the county.”
Mr Morrison felt their value to the service was proven during the floods last Tuesday when they were on call most of the day.
“The bottom line is there is no way they could have covered us on Tuesday,” he said.
“If they didn’t need to use us, why did they call us out?”
There is a now a cooling-off period in which the decision can be challenged by other cabinet members. This ends next Wednesday.