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Haworth residents express fears on fire cuts
Anxious residents packed into a Haworth church this week to learn how planned cuts to fire and rescue provision will hit their area.
At least 50 people attended to listen to a presentation by two senior West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service staff.
The fire service rationalisation plans – currently the subject of public consultation – include recommendations to close Haworth’s retained fire station and reduce the number of appliances in Keighley from two to one.
Jim Butters, Bradford District Commander, and Craig Macintosh, West Yorkshire assistant chief fire officer, addressed the Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council meeting in West Lane Baptist Church on Monday.
The council chairman, Councillor John Huxley, said people in the parish highly valued their firefighters and would do what they could to retain them.
Mr Macintosh said during the period from 2011 to 2013 West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service was losing 10 per cent of its grant, amounting to £5.9m. From 2013 to 2015 he said the organisation would lose another £12m.
Mr Butters pointed out that the fire service’s prevention work had drastically reduced the number of fires and other accidents. He said home fires had decreased from 1,985 in 2006-2007 to 1,492 in 2011-2012. In the same period he noted that road traffic accidents had fallen from 1,109 to 874.
In response to a question from Coun Alan Watts, Mr Macintosh said Haworth and the Worth Valley was one of the quietest parts of the county in terms of fires and other incidents.
One member of the public asked how much money would be saved by closing Haworth Fire Station. Mr Butters said the facility cost about £310,000 a year.
Meanwhile, parish councillors at Oxenhope have voiced fears over a predicted increase in emergency response times if the cuts go ahead.
This month’s Oxenhope Parish Council meeting heard that if the changes were carried out, response times in the Worth Valley would rise from nine minutes nine seconds to 12 minutes 56 seconds.
Worth Valley ward councillor Rebecca Poulsen read out the figures and confirmed that they were average predicted times.
Parish council chairman, Coun Neal Cameron, warned that road journey times from Keighley to Oxenhope had risen over the last few years due to increased traffic.
Coun Penny Cusdin said: “I have concerns about the fire service’s report. There are thousands of people in the Worth Valley and it’s likely there will be even more when all these hundreds of new houses are built.
“They seem to be cutting things back to the bare bone, so say if there’s a major incident at Airedale and there’s also a big fire here we’ll have to be helped by fire engines from miles away.”
Coun David Ashcroft said: “We’ve got to accept that there’s pressure on the fire authority and they have to look at how their resources are deployed.
“They are pretty sophisticated at meeting people’s needs but their analysis is flawed when it comes to our area. Their risk assessment talks about Haworth, but just because something is OK for the middle of Haworth doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for us here.”
Coun Reg Hindley pointed out that despite living in Oxenhope since 1964 he did not remember there being many major fires in the parish.
Ward councillor Russell Brown said: “The fire authority is facing big cutbacks and they have put a lot of effort into making that as painless as possible.”
But he also stated the Worth Valley featured many older houses with open fireplaces.
Coun Cameron said he and Coun Ashcroft would together draft a written response to the fire and rescue authority’s assessment.