A MP has vowed to fight to keep Sunderland central’s community fire station open following concerns engines will not be able to reach the city centre in “six minutes”.
Earlier this week, fire bosses voted in favour of closing the Railway Row station, meaning the city centre would have to be covered by crews from outlying Fulwell and Farringdon.
Tom Capeling, chief fire officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWF&RS), tried to allay fears by claiming the service was confident in reaching serious fires within a six-minute time period, despite the closure.
But the shockwaves of the decision continue to be felt, coming just weeks after Northumbria Police announced plans to close Gill Bridge police station.
Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central where the fire station is located, said she was still astounded by the decision.
She added: “I have been in meetings about this all week and I’m fighting to do everything I can to make sure the station remains open. The Fire Authority really need to reconsider their decision and meet again.
“Anyone who has been on the Wearmouth Bridge at rush-hour knows how long it can take, while the Queen Alexandra Bridge is even worse as that has just one lane in each direction.
“I don’t believe this six-minute idea and I can understand the concerns that people and businesses in the city centre have.”
Councillor Robert Oliver, leader of Sunderland Tories, said: “The loss of two key public sector buildings so close together is something we need to think about. Sunderland central fire station is the third busiest in Tyne and Wear, so the decision to close it is the wrong one.”
Colin Wakefield, independent councillor for Copt Hill, said: “Perhaps we could consider putting the fire crews on three, eight-hour shifts. That would remove the need for sleeping accommodation in the building and perhaps the police could move into the central fire station and share the building.”
Councillor Harry Trueman, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Many other cities, such as Newcastle and Nottingham, are seeing similar announcements from the emergency services.
“The fire service has said it is facing ‘challenging’ times and this council, and many others across our city, are watching these announcements very closely.”
Ms Elliott has also been in meetings to discuss the future of Gill Bridge police station.
She said: “I met with Northumbria’s Chief Constable Sue Sim to discuss the issue and she has reassured me that a police base will still exist in the city centre.”
As part of their plans, the Force said it planned to relocate officers to more community-orientated bases such as in shopping centres and community centres.
Ms Elliott added: “Myself and Bridget Phillipson MP were much more reassured after speaking to the chief constable.”