THE former branch secretary for the regions's fire brigade union has hit out at comments that St Helens’ new community fire station will provide residents with the service they “rightly deserve".

Jim Stevenson, from Garswood, is a retired firefighter who was stationed at Parr Stocks Road for more than 20 years.

He has hit out at comments from the current station Station Manager Ian Mullen, Partnership’s Manager for St Helens, which were reported in the Star last week.

Jim argues that the location will be to the detriment of residents, citing the layout of roads in the town centre for a potential concern for future call outs.

Mr Stevenson said: "It's not going to be a better service as it is not going to have two full time pumps going. It is going to be impossible to get out of where it is to incidents in Billinge and Rainford.

"I worked at Parr Stocks for 20 odd years and it was well situated.

”It was out of the town centre – which is a pain to get out of because of how it is laid out – and we could easily get to Billinge and Rainford, but this station is cutting those places off.

"Few fires take place in town centres, 99 per cent of the time, they happen in the suburbs, which is where Newton, Eccleston and Parr Stocks (station said are)."

The Star reported how work is currently being undertaken to underpin the site as it sits above three disused mine shafts. Once that work is completed construction on the station can begin.

St Helens Star:

Mr Stevenson added: "I thought it was crazy that they reported that they found mine shafts at the site as well.

"Did planning not find this when they chose the site? And did they think that basing emergency vehicles near one of the busiest roundabouts was a bad idea?

"This is a massive concern to members of the public because they are the communities that will suffer."

A spokesman for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said: "The plans for the new station have been welcomed by the public and our staff alike – ensuring the best possible operational response against a backdrop of austerity whilst improving the facilities for our firefighters.

"As such, the Authority approved the move to the Watson Street (site) on the basis of both efficiency and effectiveness.

"Understandably, as with the re-location of any fire station, some communities will be closer and others further away and our response times will differ slightly on that basis – that said the merger proposals actually improve our response to Rainford given the direct access on to the key road network.

"Any negative impact (minimal as it is) will be offset by targeted prevention activities.

"It is important to note, that fire engines are out and about in communities throughout the day undertaking our prevention work, (recently recognised as ‘Outstanding’ by HM Inspectorate) and fire safety inspections, during which time they remain available to respond to an incident wherever it may be – the view that our fire engines and firefighters are waiting on our fire stations to take a call are no longer accurate.

"With regards to the mineshafts located on site; these issues were fully anticipated – and are not dissimilar to those experienced in Prescot where we have just opened our new Fire & Police Community Station."

However, Mr Stevenson continued: "I can't understand why before it was agreed, people who have working knowledge of working in this job in the borough, such as drivers, were not asked for their opinions, just the officers.

"This is a huge issue for the town as crews will struggle to make a rapid response in areas where it will be hard to reach due to traffic around the town centre.

"There was a fire last week and a crew from Crosby came. They are trying to create these super stations everywhere, but they don't work effectively like the single stations did.

"I've been saying this for years but no one is listening and they don't understand that this is a vanity project, which is ridiculous when they are cutting staff levels."

Merseyside's Chief Fire Officer, Phil Garrigan, meanwhile, underlined his confidence in the plans.

He said: "Our new community fire and rescue station at Watson Street will be a real community asset, but even more importantly it will ensure we are able to deliver the best possible response times across the whole of St Helens.

"Our new plans, which are still subject to Authority approval, would result in the number of fire engines increasing not only in St Helens but elsewhere across the county.

"Our plans to reinvest in front line services have been achieved through the prudent use of reserves to pay off debt. The plans which have been through 12 weeks of consultation have been warmly welcomed by the public.”

The original plans for the site included two fire engines, one of which would be crewed on a full time 24/7 basis and the other throughout the daytime, with a recall through the night-time.

Following a recent consultation a third fire engine has been proposed which would be fully retained by professional full time firefighters.

The new station will also be designated a Safe Haven and Hate Crime reporting centre, have youth engagement facilities, fully accessible community space and will be fully equality compliant.

It will also be fitted with an externally mounted defibrillator that can be used by the community 24/7.