Plans to build a new £5 million fire station in Chester have been turned down after councillors said the site would be overbearing.
Cheshire Fire Authority had wanted to knock down the current station, in St Anne Street, and build a smaller, more energy efficient replacement with space for one fire engine – including a two-storey office block.
Cheshire West and Chester received 24 objections to the scheme before Tuesday’s planning committee meeting – with residents questioning the proposal’s value for money, and the fire authority’s commitment to the city.
But officers insisted these were not matters for the planning committee to consider – while the Fire Authority told councillors its current fire station, which was built in 1971, is no longer fit for purpose.
Alex Waller, assistant chief fire officer at Cheshire Fire Authority, said: “The station has fallen way behind modern requirements. It is also very inefficient and is in a poor state of repair.
“This proposal will not result in any reduction from the exiting fire cover in Chester.”
The entire site of the existing fire station, next to Northgate Arena, was due to be demolished as part of the scheme.
A temporary fire station would have been erected in place of the drill tower, before the current fire station would have been demolished to make way for the new site.
Cllr Eleanor Johnson, speaking as a member of Cheshire Fire Authority, added that Chester’s firefighters ‘deserve the very best’.
But Cllr Samantha Dixon, CWAC leader and Labour member for Chester City, raised concerns about the proposed station’s proximity to neighbouring properties – in particular, a block of 35 apartments which are due to be built close to the fire station.
In a statement read out on her behalf, she added: “I don’t believe that having a fire station 7.5 metres away from your living room window offers that protection [of privacy].
“I ask you to consider carefully when taking the decision whether or not you believe this proposal will be fit for purpose and provide peace of mind for the residents that you and I represent.”
Opening the debate, Cllr Brian Jones, Labour, said: “We went to the site yesterday and the conditions within that building that the firefighters have to deal with are an absolute disgrace.”
But Cllr Jill Houlbrook, Conservative, agreed with Cllr Dixon’s concerns.
“I think that our firefighters deserve a better place to work than what is there now,” she said.
“But the applicant for that new block of apartments – I don’t think they knew there was going to be an office block right outside the windows.”
Cllr Peter Rooney, Labour, added that there needed to be consistency following the same committee’s decision to reject a new neo-natal unit at Countess of Chester Hospital last month – because it would have obstructed the view of one resident.
Members voted to reject the scheme by five votes to two.
Cllr Johnson and Cllr Don Beckett, who normally sit on the planning committee, are both members of Cheshire Fire Authority and did not vote on the application.
By Stephen Topping – Local Democracy Reporter