HEAVY rain and flooding has highlighted the dangers of cutting Ledbury’s on-call fire service to one engine, say councillors.
Today (Friday) marks the end of a consultation process that could lead to the town having one fire appliance instead of two.
Town councillors believe changing weather patterns, bringing serious floods and conditions, have not been considered enough by Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) in making its proposals.
Coun Clive Jupp said the loss of one engine in a rural environment would be “highly regrettable” and because of poor weather and traffic conditions, Ledbury could not always rely on back-up support from Malvern or Newent.
This is a concern in a town with so many listed timber buildings and where, according to fire authority figures, nine out of ten calls to Ledbury station require the attendance of both its appliances.
He said projected response times, such as ten minutes to get from Malvern to Ledbury, are “wildly optimistic”, especially in severe weather.
He said: “Travel between both Ledbury and Malvern and Newent has been interrupted by flooded roads a number of times over the past few years.
“Snow will provide for similar delays to the engine.
“Associated flooding and agricultural vehicles will add a significant premium to the journey time. In winter conditions, travel between Malvern and Ledbury is often difficult.”
More heavy rain has fallen on Ledbury and the surrounding area this week.
Yesterday (Thursday), the A449 Ledbury to Malvern road was just passable close to the A438 turning to Eastnor because of flooding.
Meanwhile, a fallen tree blocked the road in Hollybush, Ledbury, late on Friday, January 3. Firefighters, highways officers from Herefordshire Council and a tree surgeon from Upton worked together to clear the road.
The weather is set to change tomorrow (Saturday), however, with temperatures struggling to get above 5 degrees C with a risk of an overnight frost.
More rain is expected to return Sunday night.
The town council is urging the fire authority to lobby the Government for more, not less, money and want £20 per head of population, instead of the current £14.
Referring to the high proportion of timber buildings, Coun Jupp said: “Within the last 15 years, there have been two major fires in listed buildings in the town centre that would have been unrecoverable disasters other than the fact that two engines from the Ledbury Station arrived at each incident simultaneously.”
These fires were at the Seven Stars in the Homend, in 2001, and at the Talbot Hotel, New Street, in 2009.
HWFRS assistant chief fire officer John Hodges said: “We completely understand community concerns over potential changes to fire cover and I would like thank Ledbury Town Council for their response.
“I would also like to offer them our assurances that their views will be included in the consultation process which will help to inform Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority’s decision-making meeting, due to take place in February.”