A “crucial” public meeting was due to be held in Haworth last night for the community to decide the future of its fire and rescue service.
Parish councillors called the meeting to gauge support for a first responder-style service after the West Yorkshire brigade announced it was proposing to close the village’s retained fire station as part of sweeping cost-cutting measures.
Following a public consultation, during which thousands of letters of objection were submitted, fire chiefs agreed to put the Haworth closure plan on hold for two years to allow for alternatives to be investigated.
But parish council chairman, Councillor John Huxley, says that if the idea of community-run fire cover does not get enough support, they will have to go back to the drawing board.
He added: “This is a crucial meeting for the whole of the Worth Valley, including Oakworth and Oxenhope.
“If we want to go ahead with some kind of community emergency service, we would need the village’s support, and volunteers to help us run it.
“Whatever happens, we have to let people know there will be a financial cost. If we want our own fire cover, then we’ll have to pay for it.
“We seem to have support from the fire and rescue service, but unless the people of Haworth support the idea, there is not much we can do.”
West Yorkshire Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Steve Beckley, has previously called the idea a “very exciting project”.
If the plan gets public support, the station would be run by the community, and complement, rather than replace, the fire service. Volunteers would operate like the ambulance service’s First Responders, called out to incidents in addition to fire engines but likely to arrive there first because of their proximity.
Coun Huxley believes a decision to take on such a responsibility would be unprecedented for a local community anywhere in the country.
A full report of last night’s meeting, at West Lane Baptist Church, will appear on our website – keighleynews.co.uk – today with reaction in next week’s paper.