In September, relatives of mine got caught up in a fire incident on the third floor of Woods House, Grosvenor Dock. The entire building had to be evacuated for a few nights which included my sister with her family. Luckily, it was the fire engines fromWestminster fire station in Pimlico and Kensington fire station, off High St Kensington which came to the rescue in this instance. l shudder to think what would have happened if both these fire stations were closed as is now being proposed as just 2 of the 17 fire stations earmarked for closure on a list leaked to the BBC. The list was compiled in response to the Mayor’s request to the London Fire Brigade to save £64.8 million over the next two years.
Understandably the local press have caught up with this story, notably the WEE & Wood & Vale emphasising the deep local concerns from both local residents and the Fire Bridge Union. It’s clear to me, not least because of my recent experience that centralLondon does need its full quota of fire stations. For example in the City ofWestminster, while there are annually 5,800 false alarms, you can expect some 1,000 fires and more than 1,800 other incidents making it one of the most testing boroughs. Despite Paddington station in Harrow Road and Soho station in Shaftesbury Avenue escaping the list, union officials have warned the closure would jeopardise response times and fire cover across the whole of the City of Westminster.
In such a densely populated borough, which holds the biggest leisure and licensing areas in the country, there is an acute need for substantial fire cover and these proposals should leave us concerned, not only for those living in Pimlico and Victoria, but everyone living and working in Westminster should worry. The need is even greater in a borough which is home to a number of historic buildings which as beautiful as they are were not built with modern fire safety design in mind. Westminster alone has over 11,000 listed buildings which inevitably pose a higher risk then their modern counterparts, not to mention the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.
Residents of centralLondon, particularly in the City of Westminster need to make their views clear to the Mayor and London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (otherwise known as LFEPA). No final decisions about closures have been made yet and there will be a full public consultation. This is a budgetary decision that Mr Johnson can overrule and have a final say on which is why local residents, businesses and establishments should lobby him hard now and before the Christmas break.