North Devon’s fire stations have been taken off the closure list following a revision of proposals to change the fire service.

Fire Brigades Union members raising awareness of proposed fire service cuts in Barnstaple during the summer. Picture: Tony GussinFire Brigades Union members raising awareness of proposed fire service cuts in Barnstaple during the summer. Picture: Tony Gussin

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has published its recommendations on controversial service changes following a public consultation.

Originally the service had been looking at six options that involved closing eight stations, including Woolacombe and Appledore.

It was also being proposed to downgrade Barnstaple from 'whole time' (full time) fire fighter cover 24/7 to having full-time cover in the day only, with on-call fire fighters at night.

The revised proposals will be recommended for approval by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority when it meets on January 10.

The report says they represent just over £4million savings and include a minimum of £2m re-investment into prevention and protection.

It is being recommended to defer the decision to bring in day crewing only at Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton, subject to a 24 hour crewing system being agreed with the Fire Brigades Union, before the end of this financial year.

The recommendation is for this cover to include 'roving appliances' where fire engines are strategically placed around the region and moved where needed.

Also affecting North Devon is the proposal to remove the second fire engine from Lynton, as well as those at Crediton, Martock and Totnes.

It is also being proposed to introduce 'variable fire engine availability dependent on risk'.

The public consultation last summer and autumn saw communities and fire fighters campaigning to keep North Devon stations open and Barnstaple fully crewed.

The fire service held 27 drop in sessions and received 3,818 responses to its consultation, plus five petitions were submitted with more than 43,000 signatures.

The revised proposals are not good news for East Devon, with a recommendation to close Budleigh Salterton station and provide cover from Exmouth, as well as to relocate the Topsham station.

As the recommendations were published on January 2, Lee Howell, chief fire officer, said: "Last summer we consulted on a number of options for change.

"We have also recently received Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) report which highlighted areas where we need to improve.

"After reflecting on staff suggestions, public feedback and considering how we need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service, we have recommended a balanced set of proposals for consideration by the fire authority.

"We are presenting a significant investment in our 'on call' staff which will directly improve the availability of our fire engines.

"Importantly, we are confident that we can secure alternative ways of working with our whole time staff which will allow us to undertake significantly more prevention and protection activity which will also make communities safer."

'Positives'

FBU chairman and Barnstaple firefighter Scott Young said the situation was positive with what was on the table, compared with what had been proposed last year.

He said: "There's an awful lot of work that needs doing as the detail now needs to go in and it will take some time to get the detail and how it will work.

"We are not downgrading those three whole time stations to day crew and that's massive, especially for North Devon (and Barnstaple), being the only whole time station and that we are still maintaining that 24 hour cover is huge.

"There are still some disappointing things but there are positive things as well."

Mr Young said he understood there would be no job losses under the revised proposals, though he said the FBU still had 'major concerns' over 'aggregate crewing' proposals that could see fewer fire fighters accompany appliances.

You can read the full report and proposals HERE .