Closing Banstead fire station could be 'detrimental' to public safety, union official claims

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The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) has vehemently opposed the closure of Banstead Fire Station, claiming potential increases in response times could be “detrimental” to public safety.

Banstead Fire Station could move into Godstone under new proposals by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

“We emphasise that the closure of Banstead Fire Station could have severe consequences, as a typical house fire can double in intensity every minute,” said Karl Jones, FBU Secretary in a letter to Chief Fire Officer Dan Quinn. Karl called on the service to seek an alternative location as the public should “not be exposed” to potential greater response times”

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The average response time to critical incidents in Reigate and Banstead is seven minutes and 23 seconds. It would increase to eight minutes and three seconds if the move goes ahead, the draft plan said.

Banstead Fire Station could be moved into Godstone. (Credit Google Street View)Banstead Fire Station could be moved into Godstone. (Credit Google Street View)
Banstead Fire Station could be moved into Godstone. (Credit Google Street View)

Across England and Wales, the average response time to primary fires was 9 minutes and 13 seconds, according to the most recent Home Office data. This was an increase from the previous year – with the largest component was drive time,

Moving Banstead Fire Station nine miles down the road would mean the average response time would still be under the service’s 10 minute response standard for critical emergencies.

Under the reforms, the response time could put Banstead from 9th ‘place’ in terms of response times in Surrey, to joint 17th according to 2023 data from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

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“I’m not convinced of the average response times with the geography of the area,” said Mark Johnston, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Reigate and Banstead. He said the response times are only averaged across the borough as a whole and did not take into account new developments in the area.

Firefighter. (Credit Surrey Fire & Rescue Service Consultation Booklet)Firefighter. (Credit Surrey Fire & Rescue Service Consultation Booklet)
Firefighter. (Credit Surrey Fire & Rescue Service Consultation Booklet)

Moving the crew and equipment from Banstead to Godstone will provide better positioning of cover for the whole of the county, according to the Service. Response times for Tandridge is currently eight minutes and 42 seconds, which would be cut by 10 seconds under the plans.

Specialist software is used to calculate response times by using ‘normal road speeds’, which is equal to or slightly below the speed limit to reflect traffic and other impacts. Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said: “We are confident that when our crews are driving to an incident, also on blue lights, that our estimated response times accurate.”

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said it is made aware of new developments in Surrey and is consulted on them in relation to access and hydrants. The service also said it reviews any current, new or emerging risks on an annual basis.

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A Service spokesperson said: “We will still ensure that we can respond to emergencies in the Banstead area swiftly and with the appropriate resources and equipment when needed. We will also ensure that we continue to work with communities in Banstead to prevent these emergencies in the first place.”

Housed in the former police house, Banstead fire station is ‘not fit for purpose’, the service said. Crews cannot train on the site and have to visit other fire stations instead. Owned by Surrey Police, the lease on the station also ends in 2025. Surrey Police said the site has been “decommissioned” and has been on the disposal list since 2015.

Despite some members of the public labelling the proposals as a ‘cost-cutting’ exercise, the service added it will invest around £800,000 to ensure Godstone Fire Station is fit for this increase in people and equipment.

After extensive work, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service claim that there is no other appropriate location in Banstead. The new ambulance site at the Horseshoe in Banstead was ruled out due to emergency response times as the site is closer to Epsom, which already has sufficient fire and rescue cover and low response times.

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Other sites included: The former Dormers Care Home, the former depot at Beech Grove and the detached playing field adjacent to Marden Lodge School in Caterham. However, these options were rejected due to unsuitable leases and access issues.

Taking a staged approach, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service hope to implement the accepted changes gradually throughout 2025-2030. and review them throughout the process.

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