New fire station will give St Helens residents 'service they deserve'

An artist's impressions of the proposed new fire station
An artist's impressions of the proposed new fire station

St Helens’ new community fire station will provide the people of the town with the service they “rightly deserve.”, a senior firefighter has said.

Work on the new two-storey station at unused land at Pilkington’s Watson Street site is currently under way, after plans were approved in March.

Ian Mullen, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service station manager for St Helens, provided an update on the project to St Helens Council’s safer communities overview and scrutiny panel on Tuesday.

He told the panel that 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.

Mr Mullen said the new station will replace the old “inefficient” Parr Stocks Road fire station and Eccleston Fire Station.

The two fire engines from those stations will then be moved into the new one.

A public consultation is currently under way regarding proposals to house a third fire engine utilising standby staff.

“It is a three-bay fire station,” Mr Mullen said.

“It can house three fire appliances, and that’s the plan, which will be developed over the next year.

“And then we will have a new community fire station right in the heart of St Helens, which will maintain our excellent response targets and provide the people of St Helens with the service they rightly deserve.”

Mr Mullen explained that the proposals have been put out for consultation as it proposes a new way of working for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

The fire service is proposing to adopt a hybrid system where firefighters on their days off will be called upon to staff the third fire engine when needed.

“We have to put it to the communities and let everyone have their say because it is a new way of working,” Mr Mullen said.

“It’s a more efficient way of working because our staff can be called back in when they’re off duty on a page system to allow them to be able to respond.

“It’s a dynamic way of using our staff as and when it’s needed but because it’s new, we have to consult, and the consultation is out there at the moment.

“We’re waiting for the result of that to decide whether it will come in that way.”

Labour’s Michelle Sweeney, chairman of the panel, questioned whether the proposals were more to do with being more “cost effective” as opposed to simply being “effective”.

Mr Mullen acknowledged that the proposed change is being partly driven by money, but insisted it was a more effective way of working.

“It has to be cost effective – we don’t have the money anymore that was around a few years ago,” he said.

“Were all in the same boat, it’s as simple as that. It’s driven partly by money, but it’s also driven by the fact that some of our staff aren’t needed all of the time.”

He added: “We’ve had to reduce our fire engines due to funding costs but what we still want to be able to do is make sure that when we need the extra fire engines we can bring the fire engines in – and that’s the aim of what we’re doing.

“Having a fire engine sitting there with no one doing anything on it is not effective.

“The best cost-effective way and the best effective way to put out the fires when we need them is to bring our staff in who are prepared to come in on their days off and staff them fire appliances.

“It’s working in a flexible way to ensure the public of St Helens get the service they so rightly deserve.”