Avon Fire Authority has today confirmed plans to relocate its Headquarters from Central Bristol to Keynsham and create a new Fire Station near the Avon Ring Road. The merging of existing operations will also see the closure of Speedwell Fire Station with facilities transferred to an enlarged site at Kingswood.
Faced with a funding gap of £3m by 2016/17, the service has already begun a rationalisation process and, ironically, this has included the transfer of one aerial rescue pump from Patchway to Speedwell. However, next month, the AFA will submit plans to South Gloucestershire Council to extend its premises at Kingswood Fire Station and once complete, the merger with Speedwell will take place.
As we reported in The Week In last year, discussions have been ongoing with B&NES Council about the Fire Service taking up space in the new Keynsham Town Centre development. The present Fire Service HQ behind Victoria Street in central Bristol is estimated to need around £7m in maintenance costs and repairs in the coming years while Keynsham will offer a modern, cost efficient alternative. It is thought that around 150 staff will be involved in the transfer. After several years of rumours, Avon Fire Service has also confirmed it is pursuing plans for a new Fire Station in the vicinity of Hicks Gate roundabout which will allow a further merging of facilities and offer a more rapid response time for several thousand households in the area.
While these proposals are necessary through financial pressures, Chief Fire Officer Kevin Pearson is clear that the moves will also improve service. “My key message to the public is simple and clear” he said today. “Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) is changing; our standards are not. When people need our help, we will be ready and equipped to respond, now and in the future.”
“It is very important that the public understands that we will continue to provide a first class emergency service. The solutions we have come up with in the face of our financial challenges mark the start of an exciting chapter in our history.”